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FOIBLES AND FALLACIES 
OF SCIENCE 

An Account of Celebrated Scientific Vagaries 

By 
DANIEL W. HERING, C.E., PH.D., LL.D. 

Professor Emeritus of Physics and formerK Dean of the Faculty of the Graduate 

School in New York University; Fellow of the New York Academy of 

Sciences, the American Physical Society, the American Geographical 

Society; Author of " Essentials of Physics for College Students, " 

" Physics, the Science of the Forces of Nature. " etc. 

ILLUSTRATED 



LONDON 

GEORGE ROUTLEDGE & SONS, LTD. 
BROADWAY HOUSE, (>8 CARTER LANE E. C. 

1924 



Copyright, 1924, by 
D. VAN NOSTRAND COMPANY 



All rights reserved, including that of translation into 
foreign languages including the Scandinavian 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED 8TATE6 OP AMERICA 



TO 

DORIS WEBSTER HERING 

AND 

HOLLIS WEBSTER HERING 

WHOSE EFFORTS ARE HELPING TO ADVANCE THE KNOWLEDGE 
OF SCIENCE AND LITERATURE 



PREFACE 

Wherever science touches the unknown or knowledge 
borders upon the imaginative and the obscure from 
psychoanalysis to relativity the aberrant is continually pres- 
ent, the crooked riding upon or getting in the way of that 
which is straight. New achievements open new opportuni- 
ties for frauds or fallacies or for new variations of old ones. 
The spiritualist today feels as fully entitled to his mysterious 
" ectoplasm " as the biologist to his protoplasm or the physi- 
cist to his electrons ; mediums now fortify their pretensions 
by photography as they could not do in the early days of 
spirit rapping and table tipping; occultism rings its changes 
through a series of crotchets and quavers in the lengthening 
gamut of science; eugenics, whether sound or unsound, has 
displaced phrenology 7 and other schemes of analyzing char- 
acter that are no longer so popular as they once were; and 
" Ouija " is only a last century rose by another name. It 
seemed for a while as if nothing short of special legislation 
could stem the flood of bogus relics brought on by the open- 
ing of the tomb of Tut-Ankh-Amen, and these give a new 
interest to the Cardiff Giant which, in its turn, was a crude 
example of such attempts at forgery as art galleries, collec- 
tions, and museums are suffering from today. The rain- 
maker as well as " the schoolmaster is abroad " in the land, 
and we would like very much to know whether he will 
eventually command the clouds as the aviator has conquered 
the air. Legislative bills to prohibit the teaching of evolu- 
tion are reminders of fulminations against scientific theories 
in the past, some of which we have here recounted, and are 
a legitimate sequel to them. 

The really scientific spirit is ready at any time to set up 
new ideas or upset old ones, but it wants good evidence 



vi PREFACE 

upon which to proceed ; it is the unscientific that stands upon 
dogma. It gives one a queer sensation to read now what 
seemed incoherent jargon when uttered by Keely (of " Keely 
Motor " notoriety), and to find what a startling parallel 
it makes alongside of the revelations of atomic energy by 
eminent physicists, as these expound modern theories of 
atomic structure and proclaim the boundless stores of energy 
awaiting release. Their language of sincere scholarship 
based upon facts that are only now coming to light is almost 
identical with that used by Keely to exploit a sham thirty 
years ago. So far as words go the real was anticipated 
by the false. Hardly less striking is the imaginary air- 
combat of English and German aviators recorded in 1751, 
which was to become an actuality nearly a hundred and 
seventy years later. 

A long experience in the study and teaching of physical 
science has brought the author into contact with so much 
pseudoscience posing as genuine, that it seemed to him 
worth while to write out in some degree of completeness an 
account of several foibles amounting at times to obsession, 
in which a few specific instances might serve as types to 
illustrate whole classes of vagaries. Some are of ancient 
origin and practice but they still survive and, as they are 
recounted scenes from the past set over against views of 
the present they reveal a never-ending struggle against 
ignorance, credulity, and audacity. 

The nature of this work and the reasons for it are further 
brought out in the Introduction. It is a limited view of an 
illimitable field. It would not have been possible to obtain 
the reproductions of prints and sample pages, or the extracts 
from old and rare books, but for the facilities of the great 
libraries, especially the New York Public Library, w.hich 
have been most courteously extended to the author, and 
which are accorded with marvelous generosity to every 
student. In addition to the references in the body of the 



PREFACE vii 

text, the titles of some of the books consulted in the prep- 
aration of this work are appended to the chapters. Grate- 
ful acknowledgment is here made to The Scientific Monthly 
and the Bulletin of the Aeronautical Society in which a por- 
tion of this material has appeared, to the artists and pub- 
lishers who have permitted various reproductions, and to 
others who have given valuable assistance in procuring data 
and illustrations. 

D. W. H. 
NEW YORK, N. Y. 
December, 1923 



CONTENTS 

INTRODUCTION 1-17 

Nature of subjects considered; propriety of discussing them 
at this time ; tax upon the credulity and attention of the 
public by pseudo-science; recrudescence of subjects sup- 
posed to have subsided long since ; growing tendency 
toward occultism; obsession of people en masse. 
The normal and the abnormal individual ; progress and 
change due to the latter; readiness to be misled by a 
novelty, especially if it claims to be scientific; specimens 
of erratic publications ; The Seven Follies of Science ; 
early vagaries have sometimes been modified and have 
reappeared in acceptable form ; idealism necessary, to make 
life tolerable. 

ASTROLOGY r 8-37 

Its origin and growth ; popularity in the Middle Ages ; 
frequently denounced for its wickedness ; famous astrolo- 
gers ; brief view of the nature and practice of astrology ; 
significance of the " Houses " ; how a horoscope is cast ; 
embarrassments astrology has to encounter ; necessity for 
modification arising from increased knowledge of astronomy. 

ALMANACS 38-57 

Wide departure of Almanacs from their original purpose; 
typical almanacs ; " Poor Richard," with facsimiles; Far- 
mer's almanacs ; comic almanacs ; almanacs and the weather ; 
Sir John Herschel's weather table; astrological almanacs; 
the " clog " almanac, with reconstruction ; Hicks' weather 
almanac; patent medicine almanacs. 

THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 5*H7.o 

Alchemy identical with early chemistry; early ideas of 
, the nature of metals; the doctrine of transmutation not ir- 
rational ; necessary steps in transmutation ; the idea fascinat- 
ing to Royalty; extraordinary powers attributed to the 
philosopher's stone; the doctrine in modern times; argen- 
taurum. 



x CONTENTS 

THE PERPETUAL MOTION 71-96 

Perpetual motion a fact continually in evidence on all sides 
of us ; restricted sense in which the term is to be under-* 
stood; the multifarious machines grouped according to type; 
perpetual motion inventors as persistent today as ever; 
the conservation of energy a bar to the perpetual motion 
machine ; chemical formula for perpetual motion ; early and 
recent types of machines, with illustrations ; the Redheffer 
fiasco, ingenious ways in which the fraud was detected; 
PERPETUAL MOTION OF THE SECOND KIND ; Tripler's efforts 
to employ liquid air mechanically; THE KEELY MOTOR. 

THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC HYPOTHESES. . . . 97-124 
The disposition to revolt against a prescribed doctrine 
or formula; NEWTON'S THEORY OF UNIVERSAL GRAVITA- 
TION ; scientific ideas leading up to it ; attempts to explain 
the action of gravity; fruits of the theory; difficulty of 
proving it incontrovertibly ; attempts to refute the Newtonian 
theory, by Stephen H. Emmens, by Robert Stevenson, by 
A. Wilford Hall ; the " stridulating " locust ; staggering 
disputants ; the position of the law of gravitation in science 
today ; THE WAVE THEORY OF SOUND ; war upon it by 
A. Wilford Hall; the ''stridulating 1 ' locust; triumphant 
calculation; the theory controverted by Joseph Battell. 

DIVINATION 125-165 

Insofar as divination follows laws of science it loses 
prophetic character ; most systems of divining are scientific 
only in form, not in fact ; THE DIVINING ROD ; the dowser's 
mode of proceeding; the use of the divining rod very 
ancient ; the superstition still vigorous ; famous case of 
the " Lyons murderers " ; the divining rod used for many 
purposes besides locating water ; remarkable theory of 
Vallemont to explain its action; its use sanctioned today 
by learned societies and by national governments ; extraordi- 
nary effects upon diviners seeking for water or minerals ; the 
divining rod during the great war ; Why and how the forked 
rod turns in the hands of the diviner; an explanation of 
its action on mechanical principles, without mystery; litera- 
ture of the subject. PALMISTRY; its status in divining; 
modern versus ancient views of palmistry; how the hand 
affords an infinite variety of interpretations ; PHRENOLOGY 
how it arose, and the lines along which it developed; its 



CONTENTS xi 

absurdities, abuses, and disappearance. PHYSIOGNOMY ; more 
comprehensive than palmistry or phrenology; self con- 
tradictory; famous treatises by Aristotle, Lavater, Darwin; 
modern application of physiognomy in business vocations. 

GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 166-200 

EL DORADO ; the conquistadores ; New Granada and its 
inhabitants at the time of the conquest by the Spanish; the 
legend of El Dorado as related by a contemporary ; how the 
story impressed the Spanish leaders ; their various expedi- 
tions in quest of El Dorado ; Sir Walter Raleigh's explora- 
tion of the Orinoco; his version of the legend; DR. COOK'S 
REPUTED ATTAINMENT OF THE NORTH POLE; steady reces- 
sion of " farthest north " ; how a polar expedition advances ; 
Dr. Cook's expedition in detail ; hardships encountered in 
returning to Etah ; the rescue of Dr. Cook by Mr. Whitney ; 
reception at Copenhagen; Commander Peary's expedition 
in detail ; rapid return of Peary and companions to Cape 
Columbia; The Controversy; examination of records and 
reports of committees; latest evidence in letter from Mr. 
MacMillan. SYMMES' THEORY OF CONCENTRIC SPHERES; 
circular announcing the theory ; testimony of travelers who 
had visited Symmzonia. 

HOAXES 201-209 

Account of flight across the Atlantic by aeroplane July, 
1918. THE MOON HOAX ; circumstantial description of 
scenery, animals, and strange human beings seen on the 
Moon, by means of a powerful telescope invented by Sir 
John Herschel; sensation created by the story in The 
Sun; perplexity of other newspapers. THE CARDIFF GIANT; 
its discovery and exploitation ; comments on it by scientists, 
and final exposure of the fraud. 

PROPHECIES 210-250 

The role of prophet ; a distinction easy to acquire ; proph- 
ecy more common in other fields of inquiry and experience 
than in science; MOTHER SHIPTON'S PROPHECY; account of 
Mother Shipton ; the spurious prophecy exposed ; WEATHER 
SIGNS AND WEATHER LORE; long range and short 
time forecasts; advent of the barometer in meteorology; 
weather service of national governments; early writers on 
weather signs; Theophrastus, Aratus, Virgil; the Shepherd 
of Banbury's rules ; Dr. Jenner's famous epitome of signs 



xii CONTENTS 

of rain ; U. S. Weather Bureau's bulletin Weather Folk-Lore 
and Local Weather signs; scientific basis of some popular 
signs; the universal weather proverb; criticism of it. NA- 
TIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, AND LONG RANGE FORECASTS; 
weather systems based upon the influence of the moon; 
conclusions of meteorologists of the U. S. Weather Bureau 
as to the validity of popular weather signs and proverbs ; 
recent observations of the connection between weather 
changes and variation in solar radiation. WEATHER CON- 
TROL. RAIN-MAKING AND RAIN-MAKERS ; James Pollard 
Espy and the beginnings of the U. S. Weather Service ; " Old 
Storm King " ; his Philosophy of Storms ; Edward Powers' 
theory in War and the W eat her; General Dyrenforth's test 
of rain production by exploding bombs at various heights in 
the air ; opportunity for charlatans ; process of cloud forma- 
tion not yet understood ; efforts to fend off bad weather ; 
shooting away hail storms. 

CHARLATANISM 251-265 

NOTED CHARLATANS; Cagliostro and his career; the diamond 
necklace ; Paracelsus ; noted characters, even if impostors, 
should be judged in the light of the times in which they 
lived ; QUACKS AND QUACKERY ; startling expose of Ameri- 
can quackery by the American Medical Association ; the 
quack's equipment ; audacity and success in the Middle Ages ; 
in the nineteenth century; the mountebank not yet extinct. 

RADIATION 266-271 

Radiation a companion to vibration in producing amazing 
results; THE BLUE GLASS CRAZE; General Pleasontons 
theory of the powers of blue rays of light, and his experi- 
ments with plants and animals ; mystic lore derived from the 
Kabbala; X-RAYS, RADIOACTIVITY, RADIO-THERAPY; the 
growth of the science of bacteriology and new methods of 
treating disease opened new paths to quacks ; the high 
hopes raised by the therapeutic effects of ultraviolet radia- 
tion only partially realized; electricity, and radioactivity 
often exploited absurdly in ostentatious spas and sana- 
toriums. 

OTHER ANCIENT CHIMERAS 272-^278 

HUMAN FLYING ; earliest ideas of aviation were to imitate 
the flight of birds ; followed by air-ship, and finally by aero- 
plane ; THE UNIVERSAL SOLVENT ; its inherent impossibility ; 



CONTENTS xiii 

THE ELIXIR VITAE; attempts to rejuvenate old men and to 
restore lost vitality; Dr. Brown-Sequard; Dr. Serge Voro- 
noff ; THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH ; the story of Ponce de 
Leon. 

APPENDIXES 279-284 

I. Testimonial to a modern astrologer. 

II. Note on the " clog " almanac. 

III. Prizes. 

IV. Scorching letter concerning the divining rod. 



INTRODUCTION 

Literature and philosophy which, with art (not the arts), 
have always possessed the temple of culture, now clasp 
hands with science, which hitherto has had access to these 
sacred courts only by a back door or at best a side entrance 
engineering and the various industries. Without doubt 
science has "arrived/* and finds a place frequently now 
on the front page of the daily newspapers. Recent years 
have opened the eyes of the world to a realization that at 
the bottom of the success of these industries rests pure 
science science intrinsically intellectual, and oblivious of 
all such things as the arts or trades; but the science must 
be a reality, not a sham. If this were the whole story it 
might be thought a waste of time to dwell upon the topics 
considered here; but marching along with truth is error 
its shadow and inseparable companion always keeping 
step with it, sometimes by its side, sometimes stretching out 
behind, sometimes even striding before; and this shadow 
is not infrequently mistaken for the reality, and sometimes 
proves the more attractive of the two. No sooner does 
a new fact or a new discovery appear in science than it is 
exploited in fakes. Many capable students of real science 
do not realize the extent to which pseudo-science is propagated 
today, and the hold it has upon popular attention at the very 
time that investigators are applying their efforts to 
realities or to the development of ideas that are founded upon 
real facts. That is not a new situation ; it has often been 
so in the past, but it may be worth while to point out that 
it still is so. 

Though dealing with subjects that are scientifically off 
color or even outre, this work is meant to be a serious study, 
and to present these subjects not only as they appeared 
2 1 



2 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

when they were new, but also to show the color they take 
on in the light of present day science, revealing at times 
an unexpected even startling resemblance between modern 
ideas and some that were thought hopelessly antiquated. 
The author has endeavored so to portray them as to make 
the story entertaining to a layman in science, and yet he 
has drawn upon original sources to an extent that should 
make the narrative of value to professional students who 
may refer to it for checking up data, and may rely upon 
it with whatever confidence these sources are entitled to 
receive. 

It is not imagined that a sketch of a dozen pages is as 
good as an able treatise, but the brief descriptions and nar- 
ratives here presented have been prepared from early and 
in many cases original sources, in the hope that they may 
be of use as well as of interest to readers who may have 
neither the time nor the opportunity to hunt up authorities. 

The facsimiles and reproductions should be of interest 
and service; at least they make the subjects they illustrate 
more vivid. Everybody hears about Poor Richard and his 
Almanack, but few have the opportunity to see a copy of 
this celebrated publication. 

Multitudes of people thoughtful but making no preten- 
sion to scientific learning have had their attention directed 
of late to Einstein's theory of relativity and especially its 
relation to gravity, and have been impressed by distorted 
and misleading statements regarding it; how many of them 
have any knowledge of the war that was waged for a century 
against Newton's theory of gravitation, or know about 
LeSage's great work to account for gravity ? 

It has not been the purpose to enter into the broad field 
of myth and legend which has been so well covered by Sir 
Walter Scott, Andrew Lang, Baring-Gould and others, 
but only to treat of such of them as appear in the name 
of science, real or fallacious. Concerning the search for 



INTRODUCTION 3 

El Dorado, for example, while this famous quest was not 
undertaken avowedly with any scientific end in view, it 
contributed much to the spirit of geographic exploration in 
the sixteenth century, and to the development of geographic 
and ethnographic science. Though not essentially a scien- 
tific subject it was linked with geographic science as really 
as the search for the northwest passage, or for the north 
pole, or any undertaking organized specifically for the 
solution of a geographic problem. This foible, like many 
another, illustrated the completeness with which large num- 
bers of people, even nations, may become obsessed by an 
hallucination. 

It may be asked " Why give so much attention to sub- 
jects so antiquated as astrology or perpetual motion sub- 
jects long ago abandoned or at any rate now passe ?" The 
question would be more pertinent if either of these or any 
other of the general topics here considered were actually 
obsolete or even obsolescent. The excuse for including 
them lies in the force with which these things once seized 
and commanded general interest, and in the fact that with 
very many supposedly intelligent people similar things are 
little less compelling today than they were in the Dark 
Ages. 

The state of science as well as of industry is still too 
disordered to gauge properly the effects which the war 
has produced upon them; the entire front of the forces 
engaged in scientific progress was altered; the work of our 
universities has been changed in its orientation; but if the 
effect in other countries can be judged by manifestations 
in Great Britain and the United States, professional and 
lay scholars, and not less the general public, are turning 
with more readiness and sympathy than ever to the myste- 
rious and the occult, with a corresponding increase of mystic 
" profiteers." 

Can an intelligent audience today . feel complimented to 



4 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

be called on to listen to a distinguished litterateur like 
Maurice Maeterlinck gravely explaining the ridiculous per- 
formances of the Ouija board (a revival of Plarichette, 
which was consigned to the limbo of humbugs fifty years 
ago), by a theory of a super-material agency, "odic effluvia/' 
going over almost precisely the ground traversed by the 
Abbe of Vallemont in 1696 as described in these pages in 
the section on Divination? The serious view taken of it by 
many of his auditors, by not a few editors, and possibly by the 
poet himself, must surely be due to ignorance of similar 
exploits in the past, or if not ignorance then something 
deserving a harsher name. Serious consideration of such 
things seems to arise from a failure to discriminate be- 
tween actual and would-be science. But to claim a scien- 
tific attitude is thought to give a title to attention and con- 
sideration. It is the best claim to attention today that fakers 
can urge, and a credulous public likes to think itself scien- 
tific and is easily flattered into believing itself so. 

Especially apropos is the quotation at the end of the 
section on The Divining Rod ; written two hundred years 
ago, it might have been uttered yesterday. We are apt 
to think of the Middle Ages as preeminently a period of 
superstition, but one who has not made a study of the 
subject may well be astonished at the literature that has 
been written especially in the last quarter of a century; the 
societies that have been organized to propagate pseudo- 
science and pseudo-philosophy, whose activities are not 
diminished at the present time; the -isms, the -ologies and 
the -osophies; all parading in the guise or disguise of real 
science. 

If astrology were part and parcel of an era in history 
like the age of chivalry, or of a social condition that 1 has 
passed as the feudal system, it might be summed up in 
a few words and dropped, but it has not been devitalized; 
and moreover it is the most prominent scheme of divination 



INTRODUCTION 5 

that is professedly scientific. Nearly all others run to 
dreams, or trances, or spiritualism in some form or other 
a sort of hyper-science even the prosaic divining rod being 
accused of hypnotizing. 

Astrology as a cult flourished especially in the sixteenth 
and seventeenth centuries; towards the close of the eight- 
eenth century it was rapidly losing its hold upon Europeans 
and Americans and had degenerated into mere brazen 
fortune-telling. It was at this low ebb for nearly a 
hundred years and yet, in the latter part of the nineteenth 
and the early part of the twentieth century, it revived ! 
Its recrudesence in the face of the great advances in scien- 
tific knowledge and achievement seems an astonishing 
phenomenon that cannot be fully explained until we dis- 
cover why even the learned have a craving after the occult. 
Its advocates, like all who attempt to peer into the myster- 
ies of occultism, fall back upon that overworked formula 

" There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.*' 

At the present time numerous current periodicals devoted 
largely or wholly to astrology are published, not only in 
the Orient, to which we are in the habit of looking for 
things inclining to mysticism, but in the western countries 
also four, at least, in America. 

It may indeed be true that the revival of once flourishing 
subjects such as astrology is an outcome of larger knowledge, 
yet it may not be an indication of greater wisdom. The 
strides of science in the last half century have brought 
nations and races that were strange to one another into 
more intimate relationship and acquaintanceship; the closer 
bonds of communication and commerce have stimulated 
unrest and a tendency towards removal of inequalities of 
ownership and opportunity; and the cataclysm of a four 
years' world war with its violent overturning of dynasties, 



6 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

and its political and social revolutions, must have wrought 
an upheaval of all agencies of disquiet and disturbance. It 
would indeed be strange, then, if wild notions concerning 
spiritual as well as material affairs did not share in the 
chaos preceding a readjustment of values, and it would 
be contrary to all experience of similar conditions in the past 
if we could suddenly acquire a sober and just view. The 
world's restoration to sanity must doubtless be gradual, and 
until the frenzy of unreason has subsided we cannot expect 
to be free from chimerical projects and schemes, igncs fatui 
ever luring the traveler along false trails that lead into a 
wilderness or come to a dead end. 

In the chase after these phantoms the hunters are so 
very solemn about it all that a laugh is a mortal offence. 
Keyed up to the highest pitch of hope and anxiety, apparent- 
ly they are so deeply absorbed in their pursuit that they 
are not conscious of the humor that often marks the situa- 
tion. They take the step from the sublime to the ridiculous 
as complacently as a marionette, and it seems as if it can 
be nothing but their earnestness that prevents them from 
seeing how funny they sometimes are. A century after 
Martin Luther had hurled his inkstand at the Devil in the 
Wartburg (an incident not altogether lacking in humor), 
a more amiable encounter occurred in the City of Prague. 
There, about the year 1600, to the emperor Rudolph II, 
seated in a carefully prepared chair with lights burning low 
and amid weird sounds, comes in person this same Devil him- 
self to dicker with the Emperor over supernatural help in 
his scientific undertakings and three hundred years later, at 
a seance with a circle of mystics in the city of Brooklyn, a 
prominent divine and publisher receives astonishing revela- 
tions concerning the " widow's mite," along with other* com- 
munications from the spirit world upper or lower, who 
knows ? 

Alchemy, like astrology, was associated with black art 



INTRODUCTION 7 

and was therefore anathema to the Church, but the evi- 
dence of the Devil's part in the mysterious processes was 
flimsy, though perhaps as good as that which sufficed in 
later days for the burning of witches. An ecclesiastical 
critic, ignorant of chemistry, visiting the laboratory of an 
alchemist, when sulphur was a common substance in chemical 
operations, was sharply on the lookout for any signs of a 
satanic presence : 

" And did you find the arch fiend ? " inquired a friend. 

" I think so/' was the reply, *' I think so, that is, I 
didn't see the cloven hoof but there was no mistaking the 
odor of brimstone ! " 

The story of some noted vagaries is painful, even tragic; 
others are simply amusing to an onlooker while, in their 
champions, the sense of humor is sleeping so profoundly 
that it is not awakened by a contretemps like the incident of 
Dr. Hamilton and the craniologist (related on page 155). 

The author has endeavored to keep in view the mental 
attitude both of the actor, whether honest or dishonest, 
and of the populace. Hare-brained theorists are no less 
common in science than in politics, and are sometimes 
hardly less mischievous. The subjects become of especial 
interest when they affect people in large numbers. A 
propagandist of a new or revolutionary doctrine of science 
is sometimes a fanatic. Science has not yet found a cure 
fnr iaaaUcism; it disappears only as it burns out. Mass 
psychology is impressive, even on a limited scale, and some- 
times it passes like a wave over whole nations phrenology 
is an example. " Herd impulses," as ex-president Eliot 
of Harvard calls such manifestations, is perhaps a more 
suitable term. 

barge space is given to Redheffer, Keely, Mother Ship- 
ton, and other single examples of fraud or fallacy because 
in them all, the peculiar mental traits of the public, exhibited 
as mass psychology, are conspicuous. Attention is focused 



8 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

mainly upon English and American subjects, but a good 
deal of the narrative part has been derived from French 
and German records, and some from Dutch and Spanish. 



How to account for the " crank/' and what to do with him, 
are questions that concern the general public as well as the 
specialist. Restrain him? He is irrepressible. Ignore him? 
That may be unwise for often he is half right, sometimes 
wholly so. He is alw r ays disturbing, and though always ab- 
normal he is not always unworthy, and the genus is of such 
infinite variety that it can never grow stale. No, the crank 
cannot be ignored because he is always the embodiment of 
notions that influence others, sometimes in large numbers; 
he is a type. Much depends upon the point of view. Colum- 
bus was a wise and learned man to his simple minded sailors ; 
to companions of like temper with himself he was a daring 
adventurer and a hero ; to the incredulous savants he was a 
crank. 

A normal man is one whose mental, moral and physical 
qualities put him in what is called " normal " relation to the 
age and conditions of society in which he lives; he is in 
harmony with his environment and lives among his fellows 
without discord or friction. 

One who continues to shape his conduct after the pattern 
of his predecessors, while failing to regard the advances that 
have been made ; who will not ride in automobiles or tolerate 
jazz music ; who declares that what was good enough for his 
ancestors is good enough for him, is " behind the times " ; 
while he who is dissatisfied with prevailing views and cus- 
toms, and chafes under the restraints which they impose upon 
him and consequently endeavors to better them, is either 
a crank or is " in advance of the age." If the latter is the 
case only the future can prove it; sometimes it does so it 
may be soon, it may be centuries later. Just how far or in 



INTRODUCTION 

how many respects an individual may depart from the normal 
without being generally regarded as erratic, is indeterminate, 
but there are few persons who have not some crotchets, and 
such persons we consider uninteresting and expect no especial 
achievement from them. It is only to the abnormal that we 
can look for any disturbance of an established order, whether 
for good or ill. Of these, some are a little out of line (but 
only a little) on many subjects; others are out of line on one 
subject only, but very much out; they may be very right in 
general, and yet on some one topic their aberration may 
amount to mania. The crankiness that crops out in various 
fields of endeavor often exhibits surprising acumen, shrewd- 
ness, and insight, coupled with defects of reasoning no less 
remarkable. All this is trite, of course, to the alienist. Some- 
times the purely psychological aberration affects chiefly the 
actor himself, as in "New Thought" and such systems; 
and sometimes, when the performer is dishonest, it is meant 
to affect his victims, as in the Keely Motor and devices of 
that nature. 

It is exhilarating to read the propaganda of strange cults 
among the announcements of Sunday services in the Saturday 
afternoon or Sunday morning newspapers of any large city. 
Employing various tricks of phraseology, especially alliter- 
ation, they fall readily in step with Mother Goose's rhymes 
or suggest the Mark Twain jingle: 

Punch, brothers, punch with care; 
League for the larger life. 

Many of these " movements " are poorly disguised schemes 
for wheedling money from faddists the old trick of " steal- 
ing the livery of the court ot heaven to serve the devil in." 
Whjle it is true that some projects once thought chimerical 
have been realized, and have thus justified their protag- 
onists at first villified as crack-brained, and then glorified 
as geniuses the utterly fantastic character of other schemes 



10 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

shows an unquestionable wryness in the persons at work upon 
them. Why they so frequently and continually recur is a 
mystery. 

It is hard to tell which exhibits the greatest departure from 
the normal; the eager chaser after the will-o'-the-wisp, who 
is so wholly possessed by his idea that it becomes an obsession 
(that condition is abnormal even if he is sincere) ; the un- 
scrupulous rogue who, by his plausibility, swindles his vic- 
tims; or the admirers and victims themselves who, astute 
enough in general, are peculiarly susceptible to some par- 
ticular form of deception, say scientific or religious, and who, 
along that line, are abnormally credulous and easily deceived 
even in some instances pleased at being humbugged. The 
scientific mind is necessarily an open mind, and the over- 
credulous imagine themselves especially scientific in their 
readiness to accept evidences of strange new truths. But 
they do not always properly weigh the evidence. An array 
of testimony in the guise of facts, and of consequences that 
are unmistakable is often convincing before the evidence is 
known to be genuine, with no certainty that it means what 
they suppose, and least of all with any assured connection 
between the supposed cause and effect ; and although " one 
swallow does not make a summer " a single fact is sometimes 
used to brace up a host of irresponsible and unfounded 
statements. In this way an American weather prophet has 
produced a system of forecasting which attributes large in- 
fluence to the placet Vulcan while, so far as is yet estab- 
lished, there is no Vulcan; then a casual fulfilment of a 
prediction is taken as evidence that the theory is correct and 
a proof that Vulcan is a fact. 

It is not the sincere worker whose efforts are based upon 
sound doctrine and real facts, and who works on in the face 
of discouragement, that we are considering, but the aberrant. 
Whatever may be his contention, his favorite method of 
establishing it is to challenge everything and everybody to 



INTRODUCTION 11 

refute it. If he is dishonest he wants notoriety and this 
will procure it for him, whether the challenge is accepted or 
ignofed; if he is honest he is so far deluded that if his 
challenge is not accepted he is convinced that it is unanswer- 
able, and if he is controverted he feels that, like Galileo and a 
noble army of predecessors, he is a martyr to the conserva- 
tism of the age which resents enlightenment. It is not always 
possible to take these disputants seriously, no matter how 
seriously they take themselves, neither is it always safe to 
dismiss their ideas as ridiculous, for many a wise man has 
been ridiculed and contemned by others less wise than him- 
self ; and we need not look upon a quotation from the Alice 
books as a sign of feeblemindedness. 

In speaking of the Keely motor, an English engineer 
and critic makes a generalization upon the psychology of 
Americans that is pretty broad yet perhaps not without justi- 
fication. He says : 

It is a peculiar psychological fact that among a people so energetic 
and hard headed as the Americans every imposture, depending for its 
success upon mystery, should find multitudes of believers. America 
is the home of Mormon, Christian Scientist, and a host of other 
sects, who each follow the leadership of a single person, it may 
be ignorant and impudent, or it may be of that much learning that 
maketh mad, but at least all agreeing in being mystics of the 
very first water. . . . American geese are always swans, and really 
Keely deserves a good deal of attention. (Henry Riddell, M. E., 
on " The Search for Perpetual Motion," in the Report and Proceedings 
of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, 1915-1916.) 

Instead of indicating superstition, however, does not sus- 
ceptibility to the unknown or the mysterious belong rather 
to the unmatured stage of a people, or such part of them as 
are not restrained by the conventions of those from whom 
thoy have become detached ? To a people who, in some sense, 
are still pioneers, before they have grown stale, and while 
they retain a freshness of imagination to which they are not 
unwilling to give a loose rein ; a condition which made Ameri- 



12 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

cans exuberant and bombastic, and gained for them a repu- 
tation that will require a long time to live down. That would 
account for the free play of fantastic ideas among Australians 
as well as among Americans ideas which usually find fertile 
soil in newly settled and rapidly developing countries. 

Libraries serve as reservoirs into which erratic papers and 
pamphlets flow in streams. A typical collection of sixteen 
quasi-scientific pamphlets, bound together under the general 
title " Paradoxes/' in the New York Public Library, illus- 
trates the lengths to which such aberration may go. Several 
of the papers are notable, and one or two are notorious. 
Merely to scan the titles is enough to make one dizzy ; they 
are not all old, some might be called recent. Two or three will 
serve for illustration. 

No. 3 is entitled: 

The Invisible Made Visible What the Planets Are Composed Of 
What Effect They Have On Human Beings What Effect They 
Have On Each Other By Joseph Claburn 1893 Lexington, Ky. 

As a specimen of astronomy this is amazingly, incredibly 
foolish. 
No. 4 is : 

Six General Laws of Nature (A New Idealism) A COMPEN- 
DIUM of A Large Work Divinity and The Cosmos Containing 
The Positive Cause of Force and Matter, An Explanation On All 
The Physical Phenomena in the Actuality of The Universe, and an 
Attack on the Modern Scientists and Philosophers. Solomon J. 
Silberstein New York 1894. 

To judge from the weightiness of this " Compendium " the 
" Large Work " would be crushing. Mr. Silberstein also has 
another on The Existence of the Universe The Causation of 
Its Origin, etc., which sets one wondering. 

The papers are most varied and fantastic ; one is a rhapsody 
of Man, God, Geography, Electricity, Sun, Moon, and 
Tides, and contains the announcement of " an extensive work 
entitled ' A New Bible ' to explain in detail the scientific 



INTRODUCTION 13 

principles in the above topics ! " In another the Rev. John 
Jasper is revived and the earth is proved to be a " stationary 
plane circle " ; the Newtonian theory of gravitation is severely 
manhandled by several of the writers ; and cosmic theories are 
proposed by some and overthrown by others ; one especially 
affects odd words, and another article is made up wholly of 
epigrams and ejaculations of two or three words each. 

An attendant in an asylum for the insane, speaking of the 
idiosyncrasies of the patients, said that the form their halluci- 
nation would take " depended altogether on the temperature 
of their minds." (He was himself apparently somewhat 
mixed on temper, temperature, and temperament.) Some 
of the writers of these papers rival the projector in the Grand 
Academy of Lagado, spending his labors on a project to ex- 
tract sunbeams from cucumbers. 

During the Middle Ages superstition was rife in science, 
and vagaries abounded; in the eighteenth century a great 
clarifying was in progress, and by the beginning of the nine- 
teenth extreme ideas of science were thought to have reached 
their acme of extravagance in seven different forms corre- 
sponding, perhaps, to the seven wonders of the world, and 
called the " Seven Follies of Science." 

The late John Phin, in a work bearing that title, dis- 
tinguishes properly between fraud and honest effort to dis- 
cover and utilize the secrets of nature. In so discriminating 
he, with others, rejects astrology and magic because they are 
frauds, and gives as the generally accepted list of " Follies " : 

1. The quadrature of the circle ; or, as it is called familiar- 
ly, squaring the circle. 

2. The duplication of the cube. 

3. The trisection of an angle. 
4.* Perpetual motion. 

5. The transmutation of the metals. 

6. The fixation of mercury. 

7. The elixir of life. 



14 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

I. D'Israeli, in " Curiosities of Literature," enumerates 
the " Six Follies of Science," omitting Nos. 3, 5, 6, and 7 
of the above list, and including : 

4. The Philosophical (or Philosopher's) Stone. 

5. Magic. 

6. Judicial Astrology. 

Nos. i, 2, and 3 above are purely mathematical and do not 
belong in a list that is limited to the physical sciences. The 
others are things to be achieved or produced by experimental 
processes or search and in that class come also 

8. The Universal Solvent ; and 9, The Fountain of Youth. 
This, indeed, is only a variant of No. 7, but it has been hardly 
less alluring than the others. Every one of these, at some 
time or other, has been undertaken in all seriousness. 

In their relation to the existing state of knowledge they 
have all stood, in their day, as rational topics of inquiry, and 
therefore as legitimate questions to which a conclusive answer 
might be expected. For this reason they ought not to be 
called follies, for even if they may now be regarded as such 
it was not always so, and with as good reason we might regard 
as folly almost any novelty in the development of science. 
So we call them fallacies or foibles when we are not deal- 
ing with outright fraud ; in that case we have " perversion " 
of science. In most instances the great difficulty has been 
to determine the line between honesty and deceit. 

It will be seen that in the above lists, some of the subjects 
that have been dismissed as chimerical have been capable of 
reaching a phase such as science now approves, and various 
chimeras, once laughed out of court, have returned to make 
good their claim to acceptance and to serve us. As notable 
examples that have been realized we have aviation, self.pro- 
pelled vehicles, and apparently the transmutation of metals. 
Geographical vagaries have sometimes been of wide scope 
and long sustained interest as, for example, the myth of 



INTRODUCTION 15 

Atlantis, the Northwest Passage, the Fountain of Youth, El 
Dorado, Symmes' Theory of Concentric Spheres, and still 
others. In 1492 the spherical form of the earth was a foible 
of Columbus. 

The public is apt to look with suspicion at the announce- 
ment of any startling achievement for which it has not been 
prepared by gradual approach. Today the X-rays are 
commonplace, yet not only laymen but professional physi- 
cists were skeptical of them when the first announcements of 
them were received in this country. A final solution of the 
great problems of physics and chemistry, such as gravity, 
heat, electricity, radiation, etc., involves the ultimate nature 
of matter itself the greatest problem of them all and while 
the search for its solution continues vagaries will certainly 
come and perhaps go. No innovation that appears to be 
subversive of established ideas can acquire a standing without 
overcoming opposition in various forms, and one of the earli- 
est and most effective forms that it has to encounter is ridicule 
or satire. But it has happened more than once that the chief 
fault with the innovation was that it was premature; and 
while in such case it needs great vitality to survive the ridicule 
with which it is met, if it is really true it is likely to reappear 
after an eclipse. Does it necessarily follow, however, that if 
it reappears it is really true? That has occurred with some 
systems of divining that have been scouted by orthodox 
scientists. Nevertheless, doctrines that have stood as sound 
science in their day, reached maturity and flourished, which 
died and were buried, may be on the eve of resurrection. 
Some of them, if they were now being promulgated for the 
first time, would be either ignored or laughed at in the light 
of modern knowledge which would show their fallacy. Again, 
apparently defunct notions have been resuscitated and re- 
vamped and brought into harmony with present-day knowl- 
edge and practice, have been shorn of excrescences that de- 
mormed them and stripped of dress that disfigured them; 



16 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

and in consequence, doctrines that had been rather fantastic 
have received a real scientific character, and truths that had 
fallen into disrepute may have been rescued. This seems to 
be the case with physiognomy. Some vagaries are veritable 
Banquo's ghosts and will not down. Insuppressible and irre- 
pressible, with these revival takes the place of survival and 
they return again and again to plague one or else to establish 
finally an indisputable right to live. Reversing the usual 
order, the follies of one generation have sometimes become 
the wisdom of the next. But it is not easy to escape contami- 
nation with bad associates, and upon any recurrence of old va- 
garies, even if they come bearing the promise of reform, they 
are apt to be put in the same class with new ones. Of these 
we have a superabundance in the shape of New Thought, 
Faith Healing, The Power of Will, etc., crowding the adver- 
tising columns of newspapers and magazines. What with 
short cuts to success, and marvelous methods of increasing 
one's power in all lines of endeavor, along with the ability 
to read character at sight, it would seem as if there were 
no excuse for anybody with moderate ability to stop short 
of the topmost rung in the ladder of Fortune or indeed to 
rest with only moderate ability. The situation is hit off 
well in an editorial of a current periodical : 

Life as it is lived by the rest of us must seem like loafing to those 
who have had their memories trained so that they can get the 
telephone book by heart in an evening, who have studied the science 
of physiognomy uitfil they can place a passing stranger at a glance, 
and who have mastered the secrets of will power to such an extent 
that it is folly to dispute their purposes. Existence must appear a 
strangely pallid affair to you when there is no occasion to which 
you are not equal and when you have reduced the problems of every 
day to a series of logarithms, and locked them fast in an unshakable 
memory. (The Globe and Commercial Advertiser, New .York, 
Nov. 12, 1919.) 

While some of the old " Follies " persist, the progress of 
science has brought new ones to the fore and has focused at- 



INTRODUCTION 17 

tention upon wonders of a kind that did not could not enter 
the minds of the ancients. Whether the elixir of life, the 
f ountaiin of youth or the universal solvent has passed out of 
question or not, perpetual motion still engages the attention 
oT inventors. The fact is, the thing that has become known 
and established has ceased to inspire the researcher. He is 
ready to pass that on to the utilizer, while his fancy revels in 
chimeras. A world consisting entirely of known facts would 
be as fatal to imagination as an arid world to vegetation. 

REFERENCES. 

Report and Proceedings of the Belfast Natural History and 
Philosophical Society, for the session of 19151916. " The 
Search for Perpetual Motion," Henry Riddel 1, M.E., M.I., 
Mec E. 

The Seven Follies of Science; John Phin, New York, 1912. 

Curiosities of Literature; I. D'I>raeh. 




Frontispiece to The True Prophecies of Michael Nostradamus. 
London, 1672. 



ASTROLOGY 

The common belief that the so-called Follies of Science 
were long ago abandoned is not well founded. Astrology, 
Alchemy, and the Perpetual Motion are popularly dismissed 
as quite hopeless, but this is an error not that the old ex- 
pectations will ever be fulfilled but the efforts to attain 
their fulfillment have by no means ceased. One or two of 
the early " follies " have been accomplished in a modified 
sense, others partially so, and still others have taken on new 
forms and reappeared in a new guise. Astrology, for ex- 
ample, is no longer one aspect of the science .oi Astronomy^ 
but is altogether a scheme of divination, and as such is some- 
times specifically called " judicial " astrology, and comes in 
the same class with palmistry and physiognomy. The 
" follies " do not die. They subside at times so far as to 
disappear from view, but they are like streams that flow 
awhile in open view, then reach a porous soil or sink into 
underground channels, and later emerge undiminished in 
volume and persistency. 

Astrologers have always claimed for their practice the 
status of a science, but while such claim did not disturb real 
scientists, teachers of religion looked upon the pretensions 
and doctrines of astrologers as heretical and even blas- 
phemous. In 1651 the Bishop of Chichester issued a sharp 
pamphlet to prove that " the original inventor of Astrology 
was the Devill," * and citing various learned authorities, in- 
cluding His Majesty King James I, in support of his argu- 
ment. 

The beginning oi astrology^ probably coincided with that of 
astronom^ and doubtless the two 



*ASTPOAOrOMANIA, The Madnesse of Astrologers, by George 
Carleton, Bishop of Chichester, London, 1651. 

19 



20 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

togetherjor inair^^IS- With the imperfect means available 
to conduct observations science, at first, could not be very 
exact as we now think of exactness in science, and much of the 
supposed knowledge about the heavenly bodies was guess 
work. To a considerable extent it was evolved from within 
the scholar and was philosophy rather than science. How- 
ever, fairly accurate information was early acquired con- 
cerning the apparent motion of the planets of the solar 
system, and the general configuration of the constellations, 
with the position of the particular stars in them. 

The early philosophers were idealists and it was quite in 
keeping with their bent of mind to associate the stars with 
human affairs. The effect of the sun in tempering the con- 
conditions of life on the earth was obvious, and it required no 
great stretch of fancy to ascribe similar powers to the stars 
and planets, and to suppose that, separately or combined, 
their influence upon mundane affairs might be either benign 
or malignant. The supremacy of the sun was beyond ques- 
tion; the brilliance and variability of the moon were readily 
associated with like qualities in human beings ; it was natural 
to name the magnificent leader of the planets " Jupiter " and 
give him Jovian attributes; no less so to connect the next 
beautiful orb with the goddess Venus and endow it with 
her qualities; to note the sanguinary hue of Mars and the 
unhealthy pallor of Saturn and regard each as fateful in its 
own way in its influence on the affairs of men.. 

Whether astrology jshould be counted among the " Follies 
of Science," or be re j ected as simply an attemgt aj Jraud, 
tRSF can "BeTittIF doubt that it belongs in the category of 
" Scientific Vagaries/' So varied, and at the same time 
so methodical are the movements and positions of the sun, 
moon, and stars, that they are readily arranged in an elaborate 
and very precise system, which is just what is needed and 
all that is needed for an all-embracing scheme of relationship 
between the stars and human affairs. It does not matter that 



ASTROLOGY 21 

such a relationship has never been established, if there is no 
such relationship it can be assumed, and the scheme based 
upon it will be just as workable, and it is this relationship 
that constitutes astrology as that is thought of nowadays, 
" judicial astrology " as it used to be called, to distinguish it 
from astronomy which is concerned only with the movements, 

position, physical nature and conditjpoof thesp same bodies. 
A ', . . ^~^yz&^./**<4~ i * 

Astrology is so convenient^ source of information con- 
cerning the future, and the grounds for belief in it arc 
so agreeable to one's fancy, that its dupes /could follow its 
indications without feeling that they were superstitious, 
Especially was it of value to royalty. In the Middle Ages 
an astrologer was a royal perquisite; a court astrologer was 
hardly less necessary than a court jester, even if he were not 
of as much real use. Thomas Watson says of the French 
king Charles the Wise (1364 to 1380), " For all his wisdom, 
Charles was a firm believer in astrology, and a state astrologer 
was one of the honored and salaried officials of his adminis- 
tration. It was this man's sworn duty to tell the King what 
was going to happen, so that the King might take measures 
to keep it from happening/' (The Story of France, Vol. I, 
p. 221). The prediction was usually ambiguous, and whether 
it was fulfilled or not, the astrologer stood to win in either 
case. If he foretold disaster and it came, fate was inexorable; 
if it did not come it was averted by the measures which his 
royal master put into effect by reason of the timely warning, 
and the seer and his wonderful science were alike vindicated. 
Another notable instance of this kind was the Emperor 
Rudolf II, of Bohemia, whose devotion to the mystic sciences 
is more closely associated with Alchemy. As late as the 
seventeenth century astronomers sometimes practiced astrol- 
ogy, and the fact that Kepler did so is played fey its advo- 
cates as a trump card in its favor, and as evidence that an 
unprejudiced judge will concede a scientific character to the 
cult; but tfcey evade the fact that Kepler denied any right 



22 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



of astrology to be considered scientific, and that his own use 
of it was to make horoscopes as pot boilers. As related to 
astronomy astrology is neither parent, child, sister, nor 
handmaid; rather it is like a cuckoo in a sparrow's nest. 
Wallenstein, the Field Marshal of the Imperial armies in the 
Thirty Years' War, relied much upon his astrologer whom 
he kept always at hand. We have no record of any actual 
horoscope which this astrologer made for his master, but 
there is one in existence that is reputed to have been set 
by the astronomer Kepler. It is here shown but its interpre- 



loannemKepptcrum 
i 6 08. 



xn. 



i. 



u. 



XI. 



IX. 




Yin. 
vn. 

VI. 



ra. iv: v. 

Kepler's Horoscope of Field Marshal Wallenstein. 

tation is not given. Evidently, however, it failed to warn 
the general of his assassination which occurred at Eger in 
1634. 

By the middle of the eighteenth century astrologers had 
greatly increased in number and, with few exceptions, had 
so deteriorated in ability that the practice of their art had 



ASTROLOGY 23 

degenerated into mere fortune telling. From the 
middle of the eighteenth to the middle of the nineteenth 
century it seemed to be part of an orgy of fortune telling, 
dream interpretation, clairvoyance, spirit rapping, and other 
forms of mysticism or occultism that marked that period. 
It seems remarkable that the present day of larger and 
more generally diffused knowledge should witness a recrudes- 
cence of the practice. Its friends explain this by saying 
that the renewal of interest is just because of that larger 
and more widely diffused learning. 

The most celebrated astrologer of the sixteenth century, 
and perhaps the most famous in all history, was Michel de 
Notre Dame, more commonly known by his latinized name 
Nostradamus (1503 1566). He has been called "The 
King of Astrologers." He was court physician, a pro- 
lific writer, and issued common fortune-telling books be- 
sides numerous prognostications in a more dignified form, 
but his fame as an astrologer rests mainly upon twelve so- 
called " Centuries " a Century being one hundred metrical 
stanzas of four lines each, and each quatrain containing 
one or more prophecies. These Centuries as well as his 
other works have been translated into many languages and 
often republished. The Centuries appeared between 1555 
and 1558. For some of the prophecies it has been possible 
to find an explicit fulfillment in history, while others are 
inexplicable (as yet), and many are obscure or equivocal. 
A good specimen is Quatrain 33, of Cent. V, supposedly 
relating to the Noyades of Nantes: 

" Des principaux de cite rebelle 
Qui tiendront fort pour liber te r'avoir, 
Detrancher masles, infelice meslee 
Cris, hurlemens a Nantes piteux voir." 
Says Bareste, 

" We shall not interpret this intelligible quatrain, we will only 
translate it: The authorities of the city in full rebellion, tinder 



24 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

pretext of defending liberty, shall have the people massacred, com- 
mingling ages and sexes, amid cries and shrieks. Nantes will 
present the most horrible spectacle." (Nostradamus, par Eugene 
Barest e, Paris 1840.) 

It is the misfortune of astrological as of other prophecies 
that it does not become quite clear what they mean until 
they have been fulfilled. Undoubtedly the world's ex- 
periences in the six years from 1914 to 1920 furnish a 
superabundance of material for the verification of proph- 
ecies that are at all equivocal in terms, or that predict 
evil and disaster, and a new scrutiny of these old " Cen- 
turies " might now find that they fit the recent world war 
better than earlier events. 

The plate is a reproduction of the frontispiece of an 
edition of Nostradamus' prophecies translated into English 
by Theophilus de Garencieres, and published in 1672. It 
is of interest because it exhibits admirably the spirit of 
astrology and of its devotees. 

Who could be " a trusty friend in times of uncertainty " 
so well as he who could discern the future ? " For he will 
always be a God to me/' is the natural tribute of a wor- 
shipper; and the legend " I am again coming into being 
"from an existence" in ancient times" is the Pythagorean 
doctrine of reincarnation, inculcated by every master of this 
art. It is a most delightful doctrine for the diviner, for it 
leaves his fancy ^ free of jrammels, to roam through the 
past, or to indulge in extravagances for the future. 

In his life of Nostradamus, Bareste gives " explications " 
of many of the prophecies, up to the date of the work, 1840, 
but quotes the astrologer's own statement that his prophecies 
extended nineteen hundred and fifty-seven years later. 
" . . . Et sont perpetucllcs vaticinations pour d'ici (/555) 
a I'annee 3797" 

Again, in his interpretation of the quatrains, Bareste 



ASTROLOGY 25 

cites three separate passages which are supposed to indicate 
the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew (1572), and says in 
effect, '"If you doubt that you'll doubt anything/' 

" Si apres avoir cite de telles choses il reste encore des incredules, 
c'est que 1'incredulite est indestructible." 

Of course the astrologer would figure in romantic litera- 
ture, and we find both Goethe and Schiller making use 
of him. In the opening scene of Goethe's masterpiece 
Faust refers to 

"... this book of mysteries, 
From Nostradamus' own hand " 
as his guide. 

A good idea of what astrology had come to be by the 
seventeenth century can be had from a compendium writ- 
ten by one of the most skilful exponents of it at that time, 
the English astrologer William Lilly, who published a com- 
plete exposition of its theory and practice, about the year 
1640. This gives in greatest detail the ideas and methods 
of the art of astrology as most approved at that time, 
gathered from the records of many centuries preceding. 
A few extracts from the work will exhibit the general 
character of the belief and practice to which astrology had 
then attained. 

The author seems to have been taken to task by his 
fellow practitioners for giving away the secrets of the 
trade and endangering their livelihood, and they give him 
pretty plainly to understand that they think that he has 
profited unfairly by doing so, but he assumes a most vir- 
tuous air throughout and, whether sincerely or not, in the 
preface he says 

44 ... notwithstanding the importunities of some, and they are 
not few, who deemed I should not deliver the Art in so plain and 
easie a method, yet I professe, their words rather invited me to 
discover all I knew, then to conceale one sillable materiall." * 

* Christian Astrology Modestly Treated of, in Three Books. Wil- 
liam Lillv. London. 1647. 



26 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Seemingly he would pose as an unselfish benefactor ad- 
hering strictly to the golden rule. 

The foundation on which the structure of astrology rests 
is the zodiac. It is not necessary to present this fully but 
some explanation may help to show the connection of as- 
trology with astronomy. In the period of a year required 
by the earth to perform its revolution around the sun, the 
latter, as seen from the earth, is projected successively, 
from day to day, against every point of a circle of the 
heavens. To an observer unconscious of the motion of 
the earth around the sun, it is apparently the sun that de- 
scribes an orbit, just as it seems to go from the eastern to 
the western horizon every day, and this apparent path of 
the sun among the stars for the whole year, spread to a 
width of about sixteen degrees, is the zodiac. Within that 
belt of the heavens lie the planets and many of the principal 
constellations, and therefore most of astrology is associated 
with it. To quote from Lilly : 

" The whole Zodiack is divided into twelve equal parts, which we 
call Signs, and give them the names of living Creatures, either for 
their properties they hold with living Creatures, or by reason of the 
scituation of the Starres in those places which somewhat resemble 
that effigies and similitude of living creatures : Their names and 
character follow: 

123456 



9 10 ii 12 

* * A 3S 
( Christian A stro logy ) . 

The " living creatures or effigies " represented by these 
symbols are the constellations, I, Aries the Ram; 2, Taurus 
the Bull ; 3, Gemini the Twins ; 4, Cancer the Crab ; 5, Leo 
the Lion; 6, Virgo the Virgin; 7, Libra the Balance; 8, 
Scorpio the Bcorpion; 9, Sagittarius the Bowman; 10, 
Capricornus the Goat; n, Aquarius the Waterman; 12, 
Pisces the Fishes. 



ASTROLOGY 27 

The sun completes the circuit of the twelve signs in a 
year, and astronomically, when it enters the sign Aries, 
the twenty-first of March, spring begins, and at quarterly 
intervals thereafter, each of the other seasons. The twelve 
constellations named above do not occupy equal spaces in 
the zodiacal belt; Virgo, for example, occupying more than 
forty-five degrees, or twice as much as Aries, but they are 
so distributed that when the circle was divided into twelve 
equal parts of thirty degrees, each of the divisions included 
the greater portion if not the whole of a constellation. At 
the present time, when the sun in his apparent motion is 
at the point of entering this first sign in his circuit, he is 
no longer projected against the constellation Aries in the 
heavens. The signs of 'the zodiac and the constellations 
corresponding to the same names coincided twenty-two 
centuries ago, but the peculiarity in the movement of the 
earth, or in the apparent movement of the sun around the 
earth, known as the precession of the equinoxes, has thrown 
the signs of the zodiac and the constellations of the heavens 
out of unison nearly thirty degrees, or one twelfth of 
a circuit in the twenty-two centuries. The present relative 
situation of the signs and the constellations is about as 
here shown. 

When the sun is entering the sign Aries, March 21, 
he is only about one third of the way through the constella- 
tion Pisces; not until twenty-eight days later does he enter 
the constellation Aries, and then he is about passing out 
of the sign Aries. As a consequence of this change, the 
relation that was supposed to exist between the stars and 
the earth when the sun entered a given sign must steadily 
be changing in a disconcerting way. However the difficulty 
of adjusting the interpretations to correspond to this change 
is not insurmountable. 

The constellations not only exerted an influence upon 



28 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

the seasons of the year, but had direct relation to the vari- 
ous portions or organs of the human body, as is so vividly 
portrayed in the familiar figure that usually illustrates* the 
domestic almanac of today, and which is here shown. 

SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC 



Junetf- 




V> J Sept 23 

Relative Positions of the Zodiacal Signs and Constellations. 

The circle of the horizon divides the sphere of the 
heavens into halves : the meridian circle again bisects these, 
thus making four equal parts or quadrants ; by other merid- 
ians each quadrant is divided into three equal parts, thus 
making of the entire sphere twelve spaces called " houses." 
Concerning these we are told 

"As before we have said there are twelve Signs and also twelve 
Houses of Heaven, so" now we are come to relate the nature of 
these twelve houses. . . . There is nothing appertaining to the life 
of man in this world, which in one way or other hath not relation 
to one of the twelve Houses of Heaven, and as the twelve Signes are 
appropriate to the particular members of Mans body; so also doe 
the twelve houses represent not onely the severall parts of man, 
but his actions, quality of life and living, and the curiosity and 
judgment of our Forefathers in Astrology, was such, as they have 
alotted to every house a particular signification, and so distinguished 
humane accidents throughout the whole twelve houses, as he that 



ASTROLOGY 



29 



understands Questions appertaining to each of them, shall not want 
sufficient grounds whereon to judge or give a rationall answer upon 
any contingent accident, and successe thereof." (Lilly, Christian 
Astrology.) 

The Anatomy of Man's Body as Governed by the Twelve Signs and 

the Periods when such Sign is in Control through the Influence 

of the Sun, according to Ancient Astrology. 

Head and Face An Mch. 21 Apr. 19 



Arms. 

Gemini II 

May 21 June 21 
Heart. 

Leo ft 

July 23 Aug. 22 
JReins. 

Ubra-^ 

Sept. 24 Oct. 23 
Thighs. 

Sagittarius 

Nov. 23 Dec. 21 

Legs. 
Anmfr'f E+I 
Jan. 21 Feb. 19 




Neck. 

ft Taurus 
Apr. 20 May 20 

Breast. 

23 Cancer 

June 22 July 22 
Bowels. 



Aug. 23 Sept. 23 
Secrets. 

TT[ Scorpio 
Oct. 24 Nov. 22 

Knees. 

YSCapricornu. 

Dec. 22 Jan. 20 



Feet ifrttiJK Feb. 20 Mch. 20. 

The Different Parts of the Human Body, as Governed by the Signs 
of the Zodiac. 

Could any scheme be more comprehensive? As "there 
is nothing appertaining to the life of man which in one way 
or other hath not relation to one of the twelve Houses" 
there is no limit to the range of Astrology in interpreting 
or forecasting. What may it not do? One votary appeals 
to it to decide a question of life and death, and another 
finds it a safe monitor to pick the winner in a horse race. 
The author then gives a complete account of each " House," 
with its " Nature and Signification." The twelfth will serve 
as well as any for illustration : 



30 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

" The Twelfth House. 

" It hath signification of private Enemies, of Witches, great 
Cattle, as Horses, Oxen, Elephants, &c., Sorrow, Tribulation, Im- 
prisonments, all manner of affliction, self -undoing, &c., and of such 
men as maliciously undermine their neighbors, or inform secretly 
against them. 

It hath significators x an d ?" (Sign Pisces and planet Venus) ; 
" Saturn doth much joy in that House, For naturally Saturn is 
author of mischief ; and it ruleth in Mans body the feet. 

In colour it presents the Green. 

Its a Cadent House, Feminine, and vulgarly sometimes called 
Cataphora, as all Cadent Houses may be. This is the true Caracter 
of the severall Houses, according to the Ptolemeian Doctrine, and 
the experience myself have had for some years ; I must conf esse the 
Arabians have made severall other divisions of the Houses, but I 
could never in my practise finde any verity in them, wherefore I 
say nothing of them." 

Which is to say that the general experience of astrologers, 
including his own, fully established the verity of the divi- 
sions as he published them. So it would seem that the fate 
that is in store for any one would depend upon the astrologer 
from whom he is to learn it, or rather upon the particular 
system of astrology that is applied to his case, for the 
systems differed as does homeopathy from allopathy; but, 
as the author says, the practice of astrology is "easie" 
if one only learns the scheme. The phrase "naturally 
Saturn is the author of mischief " is an example of the 
assumptions upon which the interpretations proceed. When 
we consider, however, the elaborate measures to be taken, 
the precautions to avoid a misstep, the points to be con- 
sidered in reading a nativity or casting a horoscope, not- 
withstanding the fact that the course of procedure is dis- 
tinctly stated, we cannot wonder that the astrologer readily 
comes to think he is doing something, or if not that, to 
make his client think so, which is just as good, and his 
client may be the ruler of a nation or the leader of an 
army. 



ASTROLOGY 31 

The twelve houses were represented in a diagram by 
the twelve triangular spaces that surround a central square 
as in the figure on page 22. The lines between the houses 
are called cusps. 

In reading a nativity or making a horoscope the first 
thing to do was to " erect " or " set your Figure," which 
means to place the Signs and Planets upon the Houses 
properly for the date of birth, as exactly as it may be known 
to the year, month, day, hour, and minute. 

The Astrologer has a Table of Houses in twelve pages, 
one page for the sun in each of the twelve signs in suc- 
cession, and six columns for this sign and the next five 
in the Houses from the twelfth to the sixth, and providing 
for each hour of the day. The six opposite signs go to the 
six opposite houses, ist being opposite to 7th, 2d opposite 
to 8th, and so on. 

To erect a Figure: from the Ephemeris find the true 
place of the sun in the Sign, for the given date. Then, 
by means of the Table of Houses, from this position of 
the sun are found in succession the positions of the signs 
for all the houses, and the positions are carefully marked 
on the diagram of the Twelve Houses. Next, a somewhat 
similar process locates all the planets relatively to the 
Houses, and their positions are also recorded on the dia- 
gram, and the figure is complete. (This is the solar horo- 
scope, and is critized by modern astrologers.) The pro- 
cedure is given in great detail and very explicitly, and on 
these relative positions, conjunction, or opposition, or other 
angular relation, with the especial character and influence 
that are attributed to the respective heavenly bodies, the 
entire reading is effected. So extensive and so complete 
is the apportionment of human affairs and human destiny 
to the various Houses, and so exactly and so definitely are 
the character and influence of each of the planets stated, 
that in truth there is no question relating to human ex- 



32 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



perience that cannot be answered the prospect of a long 
life or an early death; of wealth or poverty; of success 
or failure in an undertaking; of marriage or celibacy; of 
health or sickness; all these were revealed to the inquiring 
astrologer by the stars that were at once the signs and the 
arbiters of Fate. 

The old diagram of the twelve houses has been discarded 
to a large extent, and a circular arrangement is now more 
commonly adopted. 




A Modern Diagram of the Twelve Houses. 

The very essence of astrology is its definiteness 
and orderliness; any suggestion of mutability in the 
planetary system is a blow at the science. A system 
that is based upon the Ptolemaic astronomy which 
is all complete, and is limited by the sun, moon, and 
six planets, cannot but be profoundly disturbed by the 
discovery of other heavenly bodies, and this was the fate 
that was to befall astrology. It was bad enough when 
Galileo began discovering moons circling around Jupiter; 
that put astronomers and theologians at loggerheads and 
led to angry discussions among them, but astrology was 
not then too ironbound to admit of slight adjustment. The 
introduction of a new planet was like the proverbial monkey- 



ASTROLOGY 33 

wrench in smoothly running machinery. Such was the ad- 
vent in 1781 of Uranus, or Herschel as it was first called 
The new planet was soon found to be a large and important 
member of the Sun's family, and here was a pretty kettle 
of fish for the astrologers. There was no gainsaying the 
discovery astronomy had become too exact a science for 
that and the astrologers of the nineteenth century had 
to do a good deal of revising. What was to be done? 
Were the earlier astrologers to be discredited, or did not 
Uranus count for anything? They perceived the dilemma, 
for we find R. C. Smith, an English astrologer, writer and 
editor of astrological works under the pseudonym " Raphael," 
inveighing against the errors that had crept into the prac- 
tice of his art which, freed from them, is altogether admi- 
rable. He says: 

"The imperfections in the art, caused by the non dis- 
covery of Herschel (a planet of prodigious power in all 
nativities and themes of heaven), and an ignorance of the 
laws relative to comets and various celestial phenomena, 
were sufficient to cause a host of erroneous theories, or, 
as we now term them, ' Ancient superstitions/ Of which 
one of the most curious is THE KNOWLEDGE OF FATE BY 
THE SOLAR HOROSCOPE/' * So, while the Figure is still 
erected in the twelve houses, the new planet $ is inserted, 
and the influence of the moon is more powerful and, in 
his view, it is the moon when in the successive signs of the 
zodiac, that rules the portions of the human body assigned 
formerly to the sun when in the same signs, as shown in 
figure on p. 29. The name Herschel which was given to the 
seventh planet soon after its discovery by William Her- 
schel in 1781 was later changed to Uranus, the name by 
which it is now designated. It is symbolized by the same 
character as Venus but inverted, 6 , though the early 
symbol, an H with a pendant, is used occasionally. 

* The Familiar Astrologer, by Raphael, London, 1831. 



34 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

In 1846 the planet Neptune was discovered and this again 
complicated prognostications. It did astrology a good serv- 
ice, however, for it seems to have led its professors to 'take 
more nearly a scientific attitude than they had done previous- 
ly. We are told even now, after the lapse of more than 
seventy years, that the effect of Neptune is variable, and 
that its influence is not yet very well known. The implication 
seems to be that it is better to wait until there are enough 
data in connection with notable events or people to make an 
interpretation that will take account of Neptune and still 
fit the facts. That is, assign to this planet attributes and a 
significance to accord with known facts rather than assume 
qualities and read the nativity according to those assumptions. 
Still, something had to be done with Neptune, and he is 
supposed to strengthen the influence of another planet when 
in conjunction with it, and to weaken its influence when in 
opposition; ingenious enough even if somewhat hedging. 

If now the intra-Mercurian Vulcan should prove to be a 
fact, and the suspected extra- Neptunian planet be added to 
the list of those already known, it will be adding new compli- 
cations before the present ones are untangled. 

The moon as well as the sun passes through the twelve 
signs of the zodiac in its revolution once around the earth, 
and as the influence of the moon upon the fate of an indi- 
vidual is so powerful, the position of the moon in the zodiac 
at the time of one's birth is of greater importance even than 
that of the sun. It is therefore of the highest importance to 
be born under the right sign. Popular notions of lucky and 
unlucky days, legends of fortune, etc., are often expressed 
in a jingle like the following, giving the significance of the 
moon's position upon one's nativity. It is quoted by " Ra- 
phael " as among " ANCIENT TRADITIONS " whose utility is 
dubious. Its dubiety, however, seems to arise only from its 
omitting to take account of the effect of other heavenly 
bodies besides the moon. 



ASTROLOGY 35 

The moon in Aries, life is long, 

In Taunts, Gemini, Cancer, strong! 

But when the moon in Leo strives, 

Full short and painful are men's lives ! 

In Virgo thou'lt behold her true ! 

Happy and just, and amorous too! 

But still men's years are short and few ! 

Then view her swift through Libra speed; 

The vital flame she'll constant feed, 

And famous make in act and deed ! 

\Vail! when in Scorpio she pursues, 

The Sayittarian arrow ! Thews, 

And Sinews potent grace this latter Sign! 

Long life and happy then is thine! 

In Capncornus, in Aquarius short, 

But Pisces constant wards the fatal dart." 

From 1915 to 1920 the English astrological almanacs Zad- 
kiel's and Raphael's were rich in data connected with the 
war. Each year they published predictions for the next 
one and called attention to many for the preceding year that 
had been fulfilled. The predictions cited in Zadkiel's for 
1917 are in vague terms, but their fulfilment is shown in 
specific, precise instances of victory or misfortune for the 
entente allies and disaster for the central powers. Raphael 
took a longer chance and predicted the death of the Kaiser 
in 1017, and in 1918 he makes a rather limping comment on 
the failure of the arch-enemy to comply with the prediction. 

It was a favorite practice of astrologers to call themselves 
" Philomaths/' and the more pronounced their charlatanry 
the more they resorted to factitious titles to bolster up their 
pretensions. With his quaint humor Dr. Franklin did not 
fail to add that artistic touch in affixing the title " Philo- 
math " to the name of Richard Saunders, the author of 
" Poor Richard's Almanack/' 

A recent American treatise on Astrology contains the 
horoscopes of numerous prominent persons of today, but 



36 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

their interpretations are guarded in expression. As an ex- 
ample, in the horoscope of Albert, King of the Belgians, 

" Uranus in the second house in opposition to Venus in the ninth 
shows the loss of fortune through idealism, although the exaltation 
of Venus in the mid-heaven would presage Jhe victory of those same 
ideas." (Stars of Destiny, by Katherine Taylor Sprague, New 
York, 1916.) 

(Italics are ours.) Has not that been found literally correct? 
In the first issue of P'oor Richard's Almanack is a prediction 
of similar tenor in the weather forecast for January 7 and 8 : 
" snow, // not too warm, about this time " ! 

The sun and planets, with their symbols, and a very brief 
statement of what they signify, are as follows : 

Sun. Represents kings, princes, occupations; governs 

heart and brain. Metal, gold. 

3) Moon. Signifies people in general, particular women, 
also travelers, etc. Rules the eyesight. Metal, 
silver. 

8 Mercury. Signifies literary persons, orators, scholars. 

Rules the brain, memory, the wit. Metal, 
quicksilver. 

9 Venus. Signifies musicians, painters, artists, professions 

of adornment. Planet of love, happiness and 
ease; is called the "lesser benefic." 

cf Mars. Soldiers, sailors, conquerors, tyrants, etc. Metal, 
steel. 

01 Jupiter. The " greater benefic " ; planet of wealth and 

greatness, judges, and civil authorities. 
b Saturn. Old men, miners, laborers, etc. 
Uranus or Herschel. Discoverers, inventors, astrologers, 

etc. Rules laboratories, furnaces, old quaint 

places and things. 
tp Neptune. Mystics, dreamers, seers, psychics, etc. 

Surely this last would have been the proper class for astrol- 



ASTROLOGY 37 

ogers, but they had already been placed under the influence 
of Herschel, before Neptune was discovered. 

Astrology proceeds upon one of the most complete and 
highly refined systems ever devised, and that is sufficient 
to make it fascinating without any necessity for correctness 
in its principles. In comparison with this, all other methods 
of fortune telling are as base metal to pure gold. (See 
Appendix I.) 

REFERENCES 

Stars of Destiny ; Katherinc Taylor Craig, New York. 

Christian Astrology Modestly Treated of, in Three Books ; 
William Lilly. London, 1647. 

The True Prophecies or Prognostications of Michael Nostra- 
damus, Physician to Henry 11, Francis II, and Charles IX, 
Kings of France, And One of the best Astronomers that 
ever were. Translated and Commented by Theophilus de 
Garencieres. Doctor in Physick, Coll. Lond. London, 16/2. 

The Familiar Astrologer ; an easy guide to Fate, Destiny, and 
Foreknowledge. By Raphael (Pseud, for R. C. Smith), 
London, 1831. 

(A rare volume, with colored steel engravings, numerous 
" nativities " fully interpreted, and old stories of witches, 
magic, and tricks. D. W. H.) 









(a) (W 

A " Clog " Almanac of the seventeenth century 

Photographed from a " clog " reconstructed by the author, from 

Dr. Plot's illustrations 



ALMANACS 

It is not easy to find out just what is an almanac, for 
authorities are guarded in their explanations, and diction- 
aries and encyclopedias are confusing rather than helpful. 
The name has supplied lexicographers with a choice bone of 
contention : the oracular Dr. Johnson gives its derivation from 
the " Arabick " which others dispute with glee, and defines 
it "A calendar; a book in which the revolutions of the 
seasons, with the return of feasts and fasts, is noted for the 
ensuing year." His contemporary, the venerable Ainsworth, 
in his dictionary as highly amended by the Reverend Dr. 
Thomas Morell (MDCCLXXIII), tells us briefly that an 
" almanack " is an Ephemeris, with a particular mark to 
" Ephemeris " to inform us that that word is Greek ! Thomas 
Sheridan, about the same time (MDCCLXXX), defines alma- 
nack " A Calendar " and then " Calendar, A Register of the 
year, in which the months, and stated times, are marked, as 
festivals on holidays." Coming along to 1837, some sixty 
years nearer to modern usage, Charles Richardson's " New 
Dictionary of the English Language " slips into a dispute as 
to the origin of the term which it says is " unsettled," and 
dodges all responsibility for its meaning by actually omitting 
any definition whatever. The Oxford Dictionary, just com- 
pleted, does not clear up the fog but of course we all know 
an almanac when we see it. In the early days of printed books 
and even after they became common, but prior to the daily 
newspapers and the general distribution of news by telegraph, 
a few books were the stand-by of most people in rural com- 
munities, the Bible of course being at the head, and next in 
importance to the Bible was the almanac an institution 
almost as highly revered as the grandfather's clock. 

The presumption is that an almanac exists primarily for 

39 



40 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

its calendar, and secondarily for its information of an astro- 
nomical nature or about such things as movable festivals, etc., 
which are determined from astronomical data, but modern 
users say " no " to that emphatically, for although these have 
been their ostensible purposes, for many years almanacs have 
been advertising mediums or instruments of propaganda, in 
which the calendar has played a minor rather than a major 
part ; and yet, strangely enough, while the almanac is proclaim- 
ing loudly the tenets of some ism or the virtues of some med- 
icine more than dubious in character, its humble calendar is 
quite reliable and is the only part of the book that is so. It is 
only the National Ephemeris or Nautical Almanac issued by 
some governments that is devoted wholly to astronomical in- 
formation. The " Farmer's " almanac is not always sure of 
its ground, but there is no guesswork about the Nautical 
Almanac ; its accuracy is deadly and its monotony deadening. 
It is about as futile to argue with an ephemeris as to quarrel 
with the equator. 

In relation to science, or rather pseudo-science, almanacs 
have been employed chiefly in exploiting patent medicines and 
in weather forecasting. 

Of late, almanacs have been converted into veritable en- 
cyclopedias of statistical information, and these, again, have 
been reduced to a special character, political, religious, social, 
or other. Wise saws, pieces of philosophy, advice on every 
conceivable subject, are given out through them. Perhaps 
the almanac can speak of such matters as well as any one 
else can, though why they should be in an almanac is not 
clear, but it is when the almanac undertakes the role of 
weather prophet that it exposes itself to criticism, and few of 
them seem able to resist the temptation to make weather fore- 
casts as confidently as they predict eclipses, or announce the 
phases of the moon. It is with weather prophecies that we 
are most concerned here. Many newspapers issue almanacs. 
As an example, The World 1921 Almanac and Encyclopedia, 



ALMANACS 41 

issued by the New York World, a bulky volume, containing 
over eight hundred and fifty pages of text and about three 
hundred and fifty pages of advertising, is an extensive, a 
varied, and valuable book of reference. The almanac proper, 
i.e., the calendar with its astronomical data, requires twenty- 
six pages, and if it would only drop the other twelve hundred 
pages it would be a very good almanac, if not so much of an 
encyclopedia. 

Prior to the introduction of national weather service, local 
prophets gained repute for local presaging, and the almanac 
was relied upon for long-distance or long-time predictions, 
and in the matter of weather forecasting it far outdid the 
weather bureaus, for it easily summed up the weather con- 
ditions day by day and month by month for a year in advance. 
If the almanac maker will only stick to astronomical grounds, 
he can have no difficulty in extending weather forecasts be- 
yond a year. Any conclusion in respect to the weather which 
he can derive by reference to the stars inclines his readers 
to believe in it for it is by just such reference that eclipses, 
astronomical phenomena, and even the date of Easter are 
quite accurately predicted for an indefinite number of years. 

One of the most interesting and most celebrated of Ameri- 
can almanacs was " Poor Richard's," published for a quarter 
of a century by Dr. Benjamin Franklin. In the last column 
of the sample page interspersed among astronomical state- 
ments, are the homely maxims uttered by " Poor Richard " 
that have been widely circulated and often quoted. 
The reader of today is struck by the first statement 
on the January page, namely, that January is the 
eleventh month: a fact at that time though it has been 
reckoned in England and North America as the first month 
of the year since 1752, when the Gregorian calendar went 
into legal effect in Great Britain. Although Franklin had 
not acquired any extended reputation for scientific attain- 
ments when he began his almanac (his famous kite experi- 



42 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



ment was made in June, 1752), long before he ceased to 
publish it his word upon topics of physical science com- 
manded respect from all classes, yet his position of authority 
in such matters did not deter him from printing the absurd 



Poor Richard, 1736. 



A N 



Almanack 

For the YearofChrift 

i 7 



Being BISSEXTILE or LEAP YEAR 

Years 
7244 



5745 
J6S 5 

5497 



JM makn^ntt At O:*ttcn 
By the Account of the Kaflcm Gretkt 
By the Latin Church, vhen cot. t 
By the Computation of It' //' 
By the Rtuum Chronology 

Wherein is contained, 
The Lunations, Eclipfes, ~ 

the Weather, Spring Tides, Planets Morions & 
mutual AfpeQs, Sun ana Moon's Rifing and Set- 
ting, Length of Days, Time ol High Water, 
Fair5, Courts, and obfervabic Days. 

Fitted to the Latitude of Forty Degrees, 

and a Meridian of Five Hours Weft fiom Lnden^ 
but may without fenflblc Error, fervc all the ad- 
jacent Places, even from fr<wfowdlaod to Stutb- 
Caralma. 



By RICHARD S 



PHILADELPHIA: 

Prinrwiand fold by B F^YA'L/tf, at the Kcw 

Printing- Office near the Market. 



Facsimile of Title Page of Poor Richard, for 1736. 
(From Original in New York Public Library.) 

weather prognostications found in the third column for each 
month. It is not likely that he meant them for anything more 
than his guess at what he thought " seasonable weather," but 
many of his readers were as ready to swear by his almanac 
as by their Bible, and had as much faith in the literal accuracy 



ALMANACS 



43 



of the one as the other. And the higher his credit rose as 
a scientist the more ready they were to rely upon his pre- 
dictions of the weather. 



XI Mon. January hutU xxxi days. 


More nice than wife. 


Old Batchelor would have a Wife that's wilV, 


Fair, rich, and youn^, a Maiden for hii Uol; 
Not proud, uor churlish, but of fuultlcC* lac; 


A Country Iloufwifu in tho City bred. 


He's a nice Fool, and long in vain hath ftaid ; 


He should befpeak her, there's none ready made. 


I 


2 


Circumciflon 


12 


/ 


H.OS. 


Sun rife 7 15 


z 


3 


7 * fou. 7 c i Ev. 


1 


24 


7 4 5 


> nfe 4 5 morn 


3 


4 


6 O V WWy d- 


ih 


VJ 


7 4 $ 


Sew D 4 day 


4 
5 


6 


Day 9 h. 34 m. 
* X S falling vxa 


zh 
3 


ZO 


7 13 5 
7 I' S 


at 8 Aftera. 
Never /pare the 


6 


7 


Epiphany O ? 


4 


'9 


7 * 5 


Parfcnt. t winf, 


7 





/nou> y not too warm 


5 


X 


7 i 5 


> fete 8 13 aft. 


8 


2 


about thit time. 


6 


1 7 


7 to 5 


nor the Baker" 9 


9 

10 


3 

4 


O e'nt 9 
Days incr. 30 m. 


6h 
7 


V 
16 


?f 


pudding. 
Firft Quarter. 


t! 


5 


JFiWy an/ 


8 


d 


7 f 


rifiit thvull be 


12 


6 


7 * fouth 7 i~3 


9 


4 


r 7 5 


thort t like a win- 


3 
*4 


<? 


cloudy. 
2 Bund. aft. Ep. 


10 

10 


z8 
n 


7 6? 
755 


> feta at 2 morn 
ten -day, Ze/i 


:s 

7 


2 

3 

4 


7 * fo. 6 56 
Falling wea. windy 
O 4 moderate 


it 

12 

I 


*5 

ez 

22 


7 4 5 
7 5 5 
7 * 5 


you're too trouble- 
fom ha/ten away. 
> fete 5 54 mo. 


18 


5 


/now or rain. 


2 


SI 


7 5 


Full i8-cky 


9 


6 


Days lo hours. 


2h 


'9 


705 


9 at oight 


zo 


7 


*O* 


3 


"X 


6 596 




21 





Septoageuma 


4 


3 


6 58 6 


A hou/c without 


22 


2 


7 * fouth 6 32 


5 


26 


6 57 6 


woman & /Vre- 


2J 


3 


TA^re vtfftc mor 


6 


^ 


6 56 6 


) rifes 10 aft 


*4 


4 


d ? o>W ram, 


6h 


20 


6 55 6 


liffht, it tike a 


*S 


5 


Days to h. n m. 


7 


"L 


6546 


body without fend 


26 

3 


6 

o 7 


or/note. 
SezageT CW fcd 


8 
9 

10 


H 
26 
/ 


653 6 
6 52 6 
6516 


Laft Q. 26 day. 
> rif. I 50 mor. 


*9 


2 


tAarpoWcoZc^ 


10 


20 


6 50 6 


Kingt & Bean 


3 


3 


K. Ch*. L deooL 


u 


O 


6 48 6 


often worry their 


J 


4 


/Vtj/b. 


12 


16 


6476 


keepen.. 



Sample page from the First Number of Poor Richard's Almanack, 
1733- (Seven tenths of size of original.) 

Poor Richard shifts responsibility for mistakes in the 
weather predictions by his quizzical preface to the almanack 
for 1737, which is a thoroughly characteristic specimen of 
his humor. He says : 

"As to the weather, if I was to fall into the method my brother 
/ n sometimes uses, and tell you, Snow here or in New 



44 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

England, Rain here or in South Carolina, Cold to the northward, 
Warm to the southward, and the like, whatever errors I might 
commit, I should be something more secure of not being detected 
in them. But I consider, it will be of no service to anybody to 
know what weather it is 1000 miles off, and therefore I always set 
down positively what weather my reader will have, be he where 
he will at the time. We modestly desire only the favorable allowance 
of a day or two before, and a day or two after the precise day 
against which the weather is set, and if it does not come to pass 
accordingly, let the fault be laid upon the printer, who, 'tis very 
like, may have transpos'd or misplac'd it, perhaps for the conveniency 
of putting in his holidays : and since, in spight of all I can say, 
people will give him great part of the credit of making my 
Almanacks, 'tis but reasonable he should take some share of the 
blame." 

Franklin was an incorrigible wit, and would have his joke, 
certainly not less in his almanac than in signing the Declara- 
tion of Independence. 

The almanac, in some instances, has been resorted to pri- 
marily as a vehicle of humor. 

Josh Billings' " Farmer's Allminax " travesties everything, 
including what its author terms his " Zodiack Family " of 
which he gives a new variant every year. Imitating the more 
sedate almanacs, he is careful to string his weather " Prog- 
nostix " from the top to the bottom of the page, one of his 
best being near the beginning of the first volume : For Jan. 
5, 1870, he predicts "perhaps rain, perhaps not/' Such an 
attempt at long sustained humor is likely to become mere 
flippancy at timesspontaneous humor cannot be made to 
order. 

A famous almanac, p. 47, that has been published continu- 
ously, in English and German, for over a century goes 
to the other extreme. It is a good almanac in the true sense ; 
it offers occasional literary paragraphs, and gives advice to 
farmers and their wives, but any flickering attempt at humor 
is apt to be heavy, and gives the impression of having crept 
in unawares. It is a typical old " Farmer's Almanac," with 



ALMANACS 45 

the " Man of the Signs," that wonderful anatomical display 
of a human being with outstretched limbs and exposed 
viscera, corresponding to zodiacal signs; and the quaint old 
wood cuts showing occupations that mark each month's work 
for the farmer. Catering to no cult like astrology ; eschewing, 
for the most part, advertisements of patent medicines or 
other nostrums, but sticking closely to business almanac 
business; like Poor Richard it came to be a family friend 
throughout the community which it serves, and is now so 
mellowed by age that it has all the charm of an antique. 
These old-time almanacs were a family institution. Men in 
a reminiscent mood grow sentimental over them and write 
poems about them, just as they do of " The House Where I 
Was Born," "The Old Oaken Bucket," or " The Tree" the 
Woodman was implored to spare. 

For many years this almanac, along with many others, 
has given the following scheme for predicting the weather, 
but it does not state whether its own conjectures are drawn 
from it. This table was originally approved by Sir John 
Herschel. 

That this eminent sponsor of the table afterwards repudiated 
it as not well substantiated need not worry the almanac 
maker, since this is still probably as good as any other 
scheme for its purpose. 

As may be seen, if it is desired to know, from this, 
what kind of weather would occur on, say, a given day 
in September or March, it will make a difference whether 
the time is regarded as summer or winter. 

In this scheme the change of weather and the weather im- 
mediately to ensue are determined by the exact hour when the 
moon enters upon a particular phase. Now when it is " new 
moon " at one place on earth it is new moon all over the 
earth, but the character of the weather, and the kind of 
change that is coming at any instant are of the utmost 
variability instead of being alike all over the world. 



46 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



WEATHER PRONOSTICATOR 

A Table for Foretelling the Weather through all the Lunations of 

each Year 



// the new moon, first quarter, 
full moon, or last quarter 
happen. 


IN SUMMER. 


IN WINTER. 


Btw. midnight and 2 in the 1 


Fair s 


Hard frost, unless 


morning / 




wind be S. or S.W. 


Btw. 2 and 4 morning s 


Cold, with frequent \ 
showers / 


Snow and stormy. 


Btw. 4 and 6 morning 


Rain 


Rain. 


Btw. 6 and 8 morning. . . . 


'Wind and rain 


Stormy. 


Btw. 8 and 10 morning. . . *. 


Changeable s 


Cold rain, if wind be 


Btw. 10 and 12 morning 


Frequent showers 


W. ; snow, if E. 
Cold & high wind. 


At 12 o'clock at noon and 2 \ 


Very rainy. 


Snow or rain. 


in the afternoon / 






Btw. 2 and 4 in afternoon 


Changeable 


Fair and mild. 


Btw. 4 and 6 in afternoon . . 


Fair 


Fair. 


Btw. 6 and 8 in afternoon . . < 
Btw. 8 and 10 afternoon 


Fair, if wind N.W.. j 

Rainy, if S. or S.W. < 
Ditto 


Fair and frosty, if 
wind N. or N.E. 
Rain or snow, if S. 
or S.W. 
Ditto. 


Btw. 10 and midnight 


Fair 


Fair and frosty. 









This table is the result of many years' actual observation; being 
constructed on a due consideration of the attraction of the Sun and 
Moon, in their several positions respecting the earth ; and will, 
by simple inspection, show the observer what kind of weather will 
most probably follow the entrance of the Moon into any of her 
quarters, and that so near the truth as to be seldom or never found 
to fail. 

The old reliable domestic almanac for New England is 
THE OLD FARMER'S ALMANAC, by Robert B. Thomas, of 
which the issue for 1920 is No. 128. This and Gruber's 
are probably the oldest uninterrupted publications of the 
kind in America. "Fanner" Thomas' Almanack has had 
the good fortune to be enshrined in its own special literary 
niche by Professor George Lyman Kittredge who has 
written a most entertaining and informing discursive vol- 
ume about it. 

Not infrequently a proprietary almanac is combined with 
a magazine of some special character. Two noted instances 



ALMANACS 



47 



of this are Raphael's Almanac or The Prophetic Messenger 
and Weather Guide, published in England annually since 
1820; and Zadkiel's Almanac and Epfomeris, also English, 
issued since 1830. Both are Journals of Astrology, and 
abound in astrological information and predictions. Both 



, :- 



OF 




i^*^*/** 

ia^'&r-al 



(Reproduced by Permission oj Gruber Almanack Company.) 

One-naif size of the original. 
Title page of J. Gruber's Almanac. 

" Raphael " and " Zadkiel " are pseudonyms, the former 
for R. C. Smith who died in 1832, and the latter for Rich- 
ard James Morrison, who died 1874, but the almanacs have 
been continued in their name. Ardent advocates and apos- 



48 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

ties of a pseudo-science, it is fitting that they should write 
over a pseudo-signature. Both of these almanacs give good 
astronomical as well as astrological data. Both make pre- 
dictions freely concerning people and events for the ensu- 
ing year, and dwell upon the predictions of the previous 
year that have been fulfilled, omitting usually to speak of 
those that failed. Both forecast the weather for the entire 
year, systematically appending a weather guide to the page 
for each month. 

Especially is such an almanac the farmer's friend for 
it keeps him advised as to the weather, and upon nothing 
else does the success of his crops depend so much as upon 
the weather. But if he heeds astrology he will not expect 
that those planetary influences that are most conducive 
to the growth of plants producing fruits in the air would 
at the same time be most effective with tubers and roots. 
So he must be heedful of the " sign " the moon may be in, 
to determine when he would sow his wheat, plant his 
potatoes, or cut his briars and to a considerable degree he 
still does heed it. These superstitions die out very slowly. 

Old Moore's Almanack is a familar househould friend in 
England, and combines a number of characteristics. It is 
a farmer's almanac, and a propaganda of patent medicines 
and, most important of all, it contains the astrological omens 
for the month. It is among the oldest of the English 
almanacs, being a continuation of Vox Stcllarum of Francis 
Moore (1657-1715?), which the Encyclopaedia Britannica 
says is the most" famous of all the Stationers' Company's 
predicting almanacs, and dates from 1700. 

The various forms which the calendar has assumed in 
different countries and at different times make an inter- 
esting study but one that is beyond our present purpose. 
In its best state the calendar is imperfect in various re- 
spects, and efforts to reform it are reflected in almanacs 
or special publications from time to time. A comparatively 



ALMANACS 49 

recent one makes a strong plea for a division of the year 
into thirteen (lunar) months.* 

The " Clog " (Wood Log) almanac, p. 38, was a form in 
use in England before printing was invented, but was retained 
in some parts of northern England nearly as late as the year 
1700. It was a four-sided stick, the four corners of which 
represented the four quarters of the year, each edge being cut 
with notches for the successive days. To each edge of the 
stick belongs one half of each of the two faces that form the 
edge. Information for the people, so far as it was dissemi- 
ated, was given out by the monks and priests, and these 
almanacs were in their hands. By a metal ring in the top the 
stick was 

" chained to the altars of the monasteries and early churches, to 
be handy for the abbot or priest to refer to when giving his con- 
gregation notice of the coming festivals which are denoted by the 
hieroglyphic signs representing typical actions, offices or endow- 
ments of the Saints." 

Sometimes dates for the agricultural work of the year were 
shown, 

" but the priests discouraged such secular additions which enabled 
men to know the times of the year without attending church." 
(The Rational Almanac, M. B. Cotsworth.) 

The Anglo-Dutch antiquary Richard Verstegan published 
a work entitled A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in 
Antiquities concerning the most noble and renowned English 
Nation; Ant^vcrp, 1605, in which, speaking of " Our antient 
Saxon ancestors/' he says 

" They used to engraue vpon certaine squared sticks about a foot 
in length, or shorter or longer, as they pleased, the courses of the 
moones of the whole yeare whereby they could alwayes certainely tel 
when the new moons, ful moons, & changes should happen, as also 
their festiual dayes, and such a carued sticke they called an SH-ntOtt" 
flgj)t, that is tp say, Al-moon-heed, to wit, the regard or obseruation 
of all the moones, and here-hence is deryued the name of 



* The Rational Almanac, M. B. Cotsworth, York, England, 1905? 
5 



50 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Efforts of etymologists to discover the derivation of the 
name trace it rather uncertainly through the Arabic and the 
Greek, philologists dismissing other conjectures as not de- 
serving attention, but the above suggestion is at all events not 
wanting in plausibility. Al-mon-aght, pronounced rapidly or 
carelessly, easily becomes "almanac." 

Dr. Robert Plot, the Oxford University professor of 
chemistry, in his Natural History of Staffordshire, 1686, 
gives a good authentic, and somewhat particularized descrip- 
tion of the Clog almanac, which he found still in use in the 
north of England at that date, and of which the figures (a) 
and (6) are an illustration. In Fig. (a) the front edge is the 
first quarter of the year, Jan. i-Mar. 31 incl., the right- 
and left-hand edges being notched for the second and fourth 
quarters respectively. In Fig. (fc) the front edge shows the 
third quarter, July i-Sept. 30 incl., the left and right-hand 
edges being the second and fourth quarters respectively. 
The first day of the month is marked by a flared, and the 
notches for Sunday are deeper than the others. This is a 
"perpetual almanac" providing for nineteen years of the 
Julian calendar, in which that period comprises a "lunar 
cycle " of two hundred and thirty-five lunations. That is, 
on whatever days of the month the changes of the moon occur, 
in any given year, then in nineteen years after that the 
changes will occur again upon the same days of the month, 
so that a calendar that provides for nineteen years will repeat 
indefinitely. Thejchange of the week day corresponding to 
the day of the month from year to year was easily adjusted 
by moving on one day at the beginning of each year or two 
days after leap year. The year illustrated began with Sun- 
day (possibly 1683). 

The Runic characters, dots, hooks, and crosses, at the left 
of each edge designate the astronomical features and are 
somewhat complicated. 

They fix the changes of the moon by lunar months of 



ALMANACS 51 

twenty-nine and thirty days alternately and link up the 
ecclesiastical calendar with the secular by means of the 
"lunar cycle " and the "golden numbers/' (See Appendix 
II.) Apparently the saints' days and the church ceremonials 
were of more importance than secular affairs, but many of the 
latter which occured on fixed dates were marked by special 
symbols. All the dates and ceremonies connected with the 
Blessed Virgin Mary are marked by a heart. On the right, 
against the sixth of January is a star, the symbol of Epiph- 
any, this being the date of " Old Christmas " or Twelfth 
Night; against the thirteenth St. Hilairy is shown by the 
bishop's double cross ; the axe at January 25 indicates the 
conversion of St. Paul, and the mark against the first notch 
(New Year's) symbolizes the circumcision of Our Lord. 
Christmas was marked by a horn, the sign of health-drinking 
" notans cornus exhaiiricnda" quotes Dr. Plot. Against 
St. Valentine's day, February 14, the symbol is thought by 
some to be a wheel of fortune, by others a true lovers' knot ; 
against St. David's day, March i, a harp, because the Welsh 
saint used that instrument of praise. March 2, St. Caedda's 
day, has a bough, indicating the hermit's life which Caedda 
led in the woods near LichfielJ. As St. John the Baptist was 
beheaded with a sword, his day, June 24, is so marked ; and 
St. Lawrence's gridiron is placed upon his day, August 10. 
So, too, St. Catherine's wheel marked August 25, and St. 
Andrew's cross the last day of November. St. Clement's day 
was marked with a pot, referring to the custom of going 
about that night begging drink to make merry with. The 
pair of shoes October 25 was for St. Crispin, the patron 
saint of shoemakers. The curious inverted figure of a knight, 
connected with the I3th of October, attracts attention and 
deserves some explanation. It represents Edward the Con- 
fessor, who was canonized for his piety in life and the 
miracles wrought by his body after his death. He was buried 
in his newly consecrated church of St. Peter at Westminster, 



52 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Jan. 6, 1066, but after his canonization in 1161 the body 
of the new saint was first " translated " by Thomas a Becket 
Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1163. The translation of a 
human being brings before the mind the picture of the prophet 
of old, caught up in a whirlwind and borne away in a chariot 
of fire, but the translation of Edward was not like that of 
Enoch or Elijah. It was a transference of the body from its 
original tomb to a magnificent shrine nearby, which was 
performed with great pomp and the date, October I3th, 
was introduced as a saint's day in the calendar of the English 
Church. King Henry III rebuilt the Abbey of Westminster 
and on October 13, 1269, performed the second translation 
of this saint by transferring his remains and relics to a 
shrine of extraordinary magnificence in the Abbey. Besides 
the stories of miracles that grew out of the Confessor's great 
reputation for holiness, there were different versions of the 
circumstances attending his death, some declaring that he was 
murdered at the instigation of Harold, his successor ; others 
that his wife Elf rida caused his assassination ; and a legend 
went so far as to say that the manner of his death was by 
crucifixion, head downward, which seems to be the ground 
for placing the figure as it is on the clog. Other saints' 
days may be easily recognized on the clog almanac. 

Important dates of business or pleasure were also marked. 
March 25 was Lady Day, indicating not only the annunciation 
of the Virgin, but the date of leases, etc. May i had a bough 
to represent the festival of " bringing home the May " ; and 
the rake, June 1 1, symbolized hay harvest ; etc. These mark- 
ings, however, are not alike on all the clogs, some of which 
are sparing of emblems, the Norwegian and Danish differing 
from the English. 

Only a few of these quaint calendars are still in existence. 
Specimens are to be seen in the libraries of Oxford and 
Cambridge Universities, and here and there one is to be 
found in the possession of a family as an heirloom, much as 



ALMANACS 53 

we now find an occasional old spinning wheel, or a " horn- 
book." 

An almanac that has had the interest and support of a great 
many people for nearly thirty years is that of the late Rev. 
Irl R. Hicks. This is the only almanac known to the writer, 
of which the primary purpose is to forecast the weather and 
discuss weather conditions, and without admittedly resorting 
to astrology, its maker has elaborated a scheme of inter- 
pretation of planetary positions and their effect upon climatic 
conditions on the earth, by which he predicts the weather 
methodically. He fortifies his predictions by the claim that 
the interpretations which he makes of stellar and planetary 
influences exactly conform to experience. He assures us, 
indeed, that he has the only true combination of theory and 
fact, and on that he rests his claim to originality and distinc- 
tion. It is only a matter of time, he declares, when the 
material that has been slowly and laboriously accumulated 
under government auspices will convince doubters that his 
work rests upon truly scientific and indisputable principles. 
He has had a good many followers ready to accept his ipse 
dixit as the last word in weather predicting. 

In No. i of the Almanac, that for 1894, the editor gives 
in detail a very general statement of " Foundation Facts " 
and principles ; then a chapter on the periods and influences of 
the planets singly. He thinks the existence of Vulcan, the 
intramercurial planet, a sufficiently well-established fact and 
the planet an important factor in our weather. 

According to this weather prophet storms and weather 
changes on the earth recur in a cycle of about twenty-three 
days, which cycle he divides into four parts of five to six 
days each. Two of these he calls "regular storm periods/' 
and two " reactionary periods." This cycle, with its divisions, 
forms the basis of the storm calendar. The cycle he also 
calls a " Vulcan period," and whether Vulcan be a fact or not, 
he regards the Vulcan cycle as indisputable. The weather 



54 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

conditions that characterize a regular and also a reactionary 
period are given in general terms, but " these periods are 
modified or aggravated according to the impingement or 
absence of other causes. There are times when phenomena 
not common to the Vulcan period are found to blend with 
it, not only prolonging but increasing the Vulcan disturb- 
ances." These disturbances are then examined in detail and 
discussed in connection with each of the planets. Mercury 
is strong in its influence, but Venus is " put down as the most 
positive and intense disturber of the whole family of planets." 
Of course we might expect this from its size and nearness 
to the earth. The whole weather scheme rests upon a 
theory of planetary influence, which is so strongly tinged 
with astrological notions as to be extended to apply to 
sanitary conditions on the earth, especially to epidemics like 
cholera, influenza, etc., Saturn being particularly powerful 
and baneful. The moon, of course, shares in its effect upon 
the weather, but as to " Moon Signs " and lunar influences 
upon terrestrial affairs generally, the editor declines to make 
any positive statement pro or con, preferring apparently to 
keep the " open mind " that should characterize the truly 
scientific investigator. He gives, however, a list of specific 
effects popularly supposed to be produced by the moon when 
in each sign of the zodiac. The planetary influences affect 
the whole earth, but he does not very definitely locate them, 
except as northern, southern, eastern, or western. Sometimes 
they are brought within the compass of territory embracing 
several states of the Union. In this non-committal way he 
gives forecasts for each month as to storms or fair weather ; 
dry, wet, hot, or cold ; tornadoes and earthquakes come in for 
a large share of attention, earthquakes particularly being a 
sort of hobby with him. Like the predictions of astrology, 
his are general, vague or equivocal storms will prevail with 
violent atmospheric disturbance; a severe drouth is probable; 
and so on but they are seldom definite as to locality, until 



ALMANACS 55 

after they have occurred somewhere and in some shape, and 
then in the almanac for the following year this verification 
is pointed out and commented on, with " behold, I told you 
so!" In the predictions for June, 1917, after an eloquent 
description of " electrical manifestations at such June pe- 
riods," we read "The iQth, 2Oth and 2ist are days we will 
name as being dangerous. Possibly not " which recalls 
Josh Billings' prediction for Jan. 5th, 1870, mentioned on 
p. 44. 

It is common knowledge, which nobody questions, that 
so-called hot waves and cold waves, storm periods, the dura- 
tion of high or low barometer pressure over a stated area, 
last usually four or five days, and are followed by a miti- 
gation or reversal of those conditions; furthermore, that 
topographical features of the earth's surface such as the 
trend of mountains and valleys fix the direction of movement 
in winds and clouds, so that certain geographical districts 
have a special relation to other districts as to sequence or 
alternation of weather conditions ; that recent upper air 
studies are increasing our knowledge of atmospheric con- 
ditions; that the great luminary, the sun, is a most potent 
factor in modifying our climate; but the manner in which 
or the extent to which the planets may be concerned, or that 
they have anything to do with it, is mostly assumption. (For 
recent views of meteorologists concerning this, see p. 238.) 

Hicks' almanac has apparently been a candid endeavor 
to construct a method of weather forecasting upon meteoro- 
logical data. Its weakness lies in defective premises which 
imply broadly that coincidence proves cause and effect ; that 
when two events occur together or when one comes on the 
heels of the other, one is caused by the other or both are due 
to a common cause. Like his own weather prediction, it may 
be so, "possibly not." But it claimed to be scientific, and 
that caught many a reader for whom, today, " Hicks " is as 
trustworthy as any Prophet in Israel. It became somewhat 



56 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of a thorn in the flesh of the government meteorologists. 
The U. S. Weather Bureau has actually been put on the 
defensive by the importunity of that nagging individual 
who " wants to know " ; in this instance he wants to know 
why the Weather Bureau cannot indicate the weather for 
more than a day or two in advance, when Hicks predicts 
so assuredly for a whole year. The reply is given in Bulletin 
No. 35 of the U. S. Weather Bureau, entitled Long Range 
Weather Forecasts, by Professor E. B. Garriott. It contains 
a critical examination of the pretension to accuracy in weather 
prediction by systems of so-called planetary meteorology 
like that of Hicks and others, with caustic comments upon 
them. The conclusions reached after tests made by the 
Weather Bureau are given at the end of the section on 
"Weather Signs" (infra, p. 237) but the futility of pro- 
testing in that way against the almanac forecasts is plain, 
since the latter keep on appearing at short and regular 
intervals, with constant reiteration, while the reports of 
scientific tests or investigations are published but once, and 
then meet the eyes of few readers perhaps of none who 
especially ought to see them. 

Medicine is the " eternal camping ground " of the charlatan 
and the quack, and the purveyors of patent medicines could 
not overlook the advantages of the almanac in exploiting their 
wares and especially in putting them before the rural public. 
These almanacs may not abound today as they did a half cen- 
tury ago, but any one past middle life can call to mind a good 
many long established almanacs of this class as well as newer 
ones : Ayer's, with its pills and vegetable compounds ; Jayne's, 
with its pectoral remedies; Morehead's, with its magnetic 
plaster; Hostetter's, with its stomach bitters; et id genus 
omne. Before the laws of electricity and magnetism were 
clearly recognized and formulated, the application of these 
agents was chiefly empirical and it was the quack's delight 
to proclaim that " electricity is life," that animal magnetism 



ALMANACS 57 

was the key to vitality, that special magnetic rings, and 
galvanic belts of his own devising and construction, would 
eliminate disease and prolong the life of the wearer. His 
almanac was decorated with a majestic figure of Jove holding 
aloft bolts of lightning in sheaves ; a symbol of the might 
with which those same galvanic belts would repel the assaults 
of any foe to health. Here was a field from which he 
reaped an abundant harvest. In these almanacs the afore- 
mentioned anatomical figure surrounded by the creatures 
representing the constellations of the zodiac was sometimes 
capped by the legend " I am fearfully and wonderfully 
made," a statement we would scarcely want to dispute after 
looking at this picture, even if we had not the Psalmist's 
word for it. 

REFERENCES 

Poor Richard. An Almanack by Richard Saunders ; Philadelphia, 
1733 and 1736. 

Hicks' Almanac ; Word and Works Pub. Co., St. Louis, 1917. 

The Rational Almanac, M. B. Cotsworth, York Eng., 1905. 

Clavis Calendaria, or A Compendious Analysis of the Calendar; 
by John Brady, London, 1812. 

A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities Concerning 
the most noble and renowned English Nation. By Richard 
Verstegan. Antwerp, 1605. 

Leicestershire Architectural and Archaeological Society; Trans- 
actions, V. i, 1866. Note by J. M. Gresley on The Stafford- 
shire Clog Almanac. 

The Old Farmer and His Almanack; George Lyman Kittredge, 
Cambridge, Harvard Univ'y Press, 1920. 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 

A place among the classic " Follies of Science " is univer- 
sally conceded to this subject, but it has run the gauntlet of 
criticism and ridicule more successfully than any of the others ; 
and as a problem, by simply throwing the responsibility 
for its solution upon Nature instead of depending on the 
ingenuity of alchemists, it gives indications of accomplish- 
ment today, although in a form altogether different from 
that sought by the experimenters of old. It is not certain 
now that lead may not become gold, but it is quite as 
likely that gold might change into silver or copper. Re- 
garded as an achievement, the Transmutation of Metals 
and the Philosopher's Stone were virtually the same thing, 
for the latter was simply a substance by means of which 
the former was accomplished. The operation was not only 
chemical in its nature, but was the real basis of chemistry. 
Accounts of alchemy date from the first century of the 
Christian era, though tradition carries it back much farther. 
In its progress it controlled chemical efforts until the middle 
of the sixteenth century, and survived fully a century and 
a half longer. As late as the eleventh century, an en- 
cyclopaedia by Suidas gives the definition " Chemistry, the 
artificial preparation of gold and silver." * This specific 
purpose of chemistry was designated alchemy, while chem- 
istry proper developed along broader lines. Alchemy 
reached its greatest height between the years 1200 and 1500, 
when it had come into royal favor and had potent influence 
with courts; and having become linked with magic and 
astrology, it aided in disseminating superstition and playing 
upon human credulity. It was a part of the mysteries of 

* History of Chemistry, by Ernest von Meyer, translated by 
George McGowan. 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 59 

secret societies and gave weirdness to their rituals. It 
was not confined to one country nor did it make its appeal 
especially to the uncultured ; those nations which, at the time, 
stood most prominently for the graces and refinements of 
education were the nations in which alchemy was in highest 
repute. Within its legitimate scientific scope the most con- 
spicuous figures were the German Albert von Bollstadt 
(Albertus Magnus), 1193-1280; the; Englishman Roger 
Bacon, 12141-1284.', the Provencal (though educated in 
Spain), Arnold of Villanova, 1235-1312; and the Spaniard 
Raymuud Lully, 1235-1315.* 

The transmutation of metals as conceived by the 
alchemists differed from the idea we have of it now be- 
cause of the early notion of the nature of metals. A metal 
was not only distinguished by its physical properties but 
was completely determined by them. Gold is yellow, and 
if a red metal like copper could be made into one that is 
yellow like brass, it was on that account more nearly gold, 
and the transmutation of copper into gold was partly ef- 
fected. If copper was whitened by mercury it was being 
changed into silver, and so on. Their common idea was that 
the various metals were simply modifications of one sub- 
tance. Gold and silver were "noble" metals and more 
nearly perfect than the others, and if the latter could be 
so treated as to remove the impurities which they contained 
they would be converted eventually into gold. 

Mercury, discovered about 300 B. C., was a valued 
factor in most operations of alchemy, and its remarkable 
elusiveness along with its readiness to amalgamate with 
other metals gave rise on its part to another of the " Follies," 
the problem of its fixation. By the eighth century the theory 

*Prof. J. M. Stillman in The Scientific Monthly for June, 1922, 
points out that nearly, if not quite all the alchemical literature at- 
tributed to every one of these four distinguished scholars is the 
product of half a century to two centuries later than the authors to 
whom it is ascribed. 



60 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

was widely accepted that the metals consisted of sulphur 
and mercury, although it was not certain that these con- 
stituents were identical with sulphur and mercury in their 
natural state. With the alchemists an element meant a certain 
principle or quality. Sulphur meant the principle of combus- 
tibility (later replaced by the more substantial phlogiston), and 
mercury the principle of metallic behavior that which really 
constituted metallicity, and later came salt, which meant the 
principle of solubility. A substance would be one or an- 
other metal depending upon the extent to which it pos- 
sessed these various qualities; therefore the effort to make 
artificial gold was by no means nonsense. " There was a 
priori no reason why a change of lead to gold should be 
less possible than a change of iron to rust, indeed there 
is no a priori reason against it now." (Enc. Brit., Art. 
"Element.") The idea that all substances are modifica- 
tions of one primary or basic substance was advocated 
in a modernized form during the nineteenth century, and 
is not yet dead. 

Mercury, as obtained in nature or from its sulphide 
cinnabar, was either liquid, or volatilized by heat. Metals 
were solid, and whether the mercury of nature was identi- 
cal with that element in all metals was not certain. It united 
readily with various metals and as a liquid it was very 
elusive, and whether it was truly a metal could only be 
decided by obtaining it in a " fixed " or solid form in 
which it neither Volatilized nor united with other metals. 
This so-called fixation would probably secure to the phi- 
losophers the basic substance of all metals. So the fixation 
of mercury was a problem of the alchemists which was 
not solved until 1759, simply because it was not tried by 
any scholars in latitudes where the temperature went as 
low as 40 C. and no artificial means was known for ob- 
taining so low a temperature. 

Although alchemy is chemistry, it is to be noted that 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 61 

the alchemists called themselves philosophers. In passing 
judgment upon them, two things must be kept in mind: 
one, that many of them were men of large intellectual 
calibre, and of sincere purpose to explore the mysteries 
of nature and to accomplish real scientific work, while 
some were downright frauds, often timeservers or para- 
sites seeking to curry favor with rulers, nobles, or other 
wealthy patrons ; the other, that among the honest ones 
their work was the effort to bring to perfection that which 
was imperfect. To accomplish the transmutation so- 
called " medicines " were to be employed, those of the 
first and second order being preliminary and partial in 
altering the properties of the base metals into those of 
the noble ones, but the transmutation proper could only 
be effected by the medicine of the third order, which was 
variously designated as the Philosopher's Stone, the Great 
Elixir, or the Magisterium (masterpiece). The prepara- 
tion of the " medicines " was the puzzle. Dr. James 
Campbell Brown says: 

" the best extant definition of the philosopher's stone is probably 
that contained in Salmon's Blblothcqnc dcs Philosophcs Chimiques, 
a collection re-edited in the sixteenth century. It is there de- 
fined as ' the universal medicine for all imperfect metals, which 
fixes that which is volatile, purifies that which they have impure, 
and gives a colour and a lustre more brilliant than Nature.' " * 

From the thirteenth century on, for the preparation of the 
philosopher's stone a matcria prima was deemed requisite 
and to obtain this was the hardest task of all ; though vari- 
ous alchemists professed to derive it from various raw 
materials, they jealously guarded the secret of its produc- 
tion. True, they often wrote out formulas for its prep- 
aration, but these were expressed in a jargon so myste- 
rious, dark, confused, and often ominous as to be incom- 
prehensible and useless to those who would try to follow 

* History of Chemistry, p. 177. 



62 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

them. When the philosopher's stone had been obtained 
they performed extraordinary things with it, of which this 
example is quoted from Lully by von Meyer : 

' 'Take of this precious medicine a small piece as large as a 
bean. Throw it upon a thousand ounces of mercury, and this will 
be changed into a red powder. Put one ounce of the latter upon 
one thousand ounces of mercury, which will thereby be transformed 
into a red powder. Of this, again, one ounce thrown upon a thousand 
ounces of mercury will convert it entirely into medicine. Throw 
one ounce of this on a thousand ounces of fresh mercury, and it 
will likewise turn into medicine. Of this last medicine, throw once 
more one ounce upon a thousand ounces of mercury, and this will 
be entirely changed into gold, which is better than gold from the 
mines." * 

Surely a monotonous process, but it shows the importance 
of the philosopher's stone which, in its turn, can only be 
got from the matcria prima. The old books are full of 
recipes for changing metals, which were for the most 
part methods of debasing gold or silver into alloys or 
amalgams. Among books of today the two histories of 
chemistry which we have cited contain excellent accounts 
of the alchemists, and that by Dr. James Campbell Brown 
has one chapter of especial interest upon the symbolism of 
the alchemists. He tells us that 

" the alchemists, by the term elixir, magisterium, medicine, or 
philosopher's stone, understood a compound which was supposed to 
possess the power of transmuting the baser metals into gold or 
silver. ... As centurks passed away, the alchemists became more 
and more extravagant in their visions, and added to the original 
idea of transmutation various other powers, such as making pre- 
cious stones, curing diseases, prolonging life, and controlling ele- 
mental spirits. The philosopher's stone could preserve health, 
raise the dead, make the old young, turn the coward into a hero, 
strengthen the memory, and sober the drunkard." f 

Nor was Royalty proof against the seductions of alchemy. 
We have seen that kings rated astrologers highly, and we 

* History of Chemistry, McGowan's translation, p. 43. 
^History of Chemistry, p. 185. 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 63 

can well understand that the Philosopher's Stone was a 
desideratum, especially to monarchs whose coffers were 
low. ' 

These delusions seemed to be particularly strong at the 
close of the sixteenth century, just when the Holy Roman 
Empire, embracing all of modern Germany, Austria, Hun- 
gary, and Bohemia, was upon the verge of the thirty-years 
war. The Emperor Rudolf II has been censured for 
neglecting the important affairs of State to dabble in the 
trivialities of science, when Catholics and Protestants were 
about to plunge the empire into this sanguinary struggle. 
In vain his ministers cried " Scotland's a-burning." Be- 
cause he devoted himself to art and the sciences of the 
day, especially astrology and alchemy, instead of politics, 
when this great religious conflagration was kindling, he has 
been called weak and incompetent. Certainly he was no great 
success as an emperor, but there is something to his credit 
in his recognition and support of genius, and he himself 
thought it his glory rather than his shame to cultivate the 
sciences and seek to probe their mysteries. Of course he 
was imposed upon, for it seems as if no one ever goes far 
on the path of occultism without losing his sense of balance, 
and pretenders made the most of an opportunity to prac- 
tice upon this royal votary. But not all his proteges were 
frauds: Tycho Brahe, disgraced by the Danish Court and 
exiled from his splendid observatory at Oranienburg, found 
a refuge at Prague, where the Emperor Rudolf II installed 
him in a castle especially fitted up for him and his astro- 
nomical work ; and under the patronage of this same emperor 
thither came also John Kepler, first as pupil and later as 
successor to Tycho. It was still an age of superstition 
from which science had scarcely begun to emerge, and both 
of these geniuses were imbued with many of the fancies 
intimately connected with science. They were not indif- 
ferent to astrology and supermundane influences; alchemy 



64 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

did not appear to them unreasonable ; and when their patron 
was an avowed devotee of both these subjects, they at least 
did not feel called upon to make any vigorous 'protest 
against them. If the emperor suffered from astrologo- 
mania his affliction was a very common malady. Says the 
historian Anton Gindely 

"Hardly any considerable personage came to him" (Rudolf) 
" for an audience but he had the messenger's horoscope cast and 
governed his conduct toward him by the result of that. As a con- 
sequence, there was never at Prague a scarcity of astrologers and 
chemists, whom Rudolf needed for his investigations. Of the 
former, Tycho Brahe and Kepler were honorable men and gained 
undying fame in their science, while the latter were adventurers who 
now boasted of the art of making gold, now promised wonderful 
feats by sympathetic means." * 

As the emperor was generous in his equipment of his 
astronomers for their work we cannot suppose that he was 
less liberal towards his alchemists, or that their laboratories 
lacked furnace or bellows, retort or alembic. He was 
especially indulgent to the alchemists (Goldmacher) Michael 
Sendivog and John Dee, and to the spiritualist and mind 
reader Hieronymus Scoto. He gained the reputation of 
being himself skilled in black art, a fact which is perpetuated 
by an inscription in the castle at Prague. This declares 
that " to prove that he transmuted metals by means of a 
tincture that Sendivog had prepared for him, they still 
displayed in Vienna in the i8th century, leaden bars, of 
each one of which, Rudolf had converted one half into gold. 
Also in Prague was a chair, seated in which, with Scoto 
as medium, he had had dealings with the devil" f 

The alchemists must have realized that gold would de- 
preciate in value if it became abundant, and that was another 
reason for keeping the process of obtaining the philosopher's 
stone a profound secret. On the other hand, it has been 

* Rudolf II und Seine Zeit, Band I, S. 29. 
t Allgemeine Biographic: Rudolf II. 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 65 

thought that " one of the objects which the better class of 
alchemists had in view was the making of gold to such an ex- 
tent that it might become quite common, and cease to be sought 
after by mankind. One alchemical writer says : * Would 
to God that all men might become adepts in our art, for 
then gold, the common idol of mankind, would lose its 
value and we should prize it only for its scientific teach- 
ing/ " (John Phin, The Seven Follies of Science, 3d Ed., 
p. 91.) 

In the number and extent of powers ascribed to it the 
philosopher's stone surpassed the magician's wand, and 
made the transmutation of metals and the elixir of life 
identical with itself in the list of " Follies of Science." 
Its devotees formed secret societies, and its pursuit fur- 
nished material for romance as well as for history. A 
notable instance is Bulwer's Zanoni. 

In 1850 Charles Mackay wrote (Popular Delusions), 
" In our day, no mention is made in Europe of any new 
devotees of the science. . . . Alchymy, in Europe, may be 
said to be wholly exploded." 

But it did not stay exploded. 

" You cannot unscramble an egg," says the proverb, 
but something like it occurred in the ensuing half century, 
for the fragments of that exploded bubble were effectually 
gathered up and reunited, and the alchemical egg was re- 
stored, whole and fertile. 

So long as the ultimate nature of matter is unknown, 
the transmutation of the elements will be an open question. 
Every new theory in chemistry has broadened its conception 
of matter and opened new possibilities and none has deter- 
mined the impossibility of transmutation; they have 
simply qualified the form which the transmutation may 
take or the sense in which the term is understood. So, in 
spite of the chicanery and extravagance into which the al- 
6 



66 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

chemists fell, the idea never quite died out, though attempts 
to realize it had to conform to increasing chemical knowl- 
edge. The late Dr. H. Carrington Bolton made a' list of 
nearly three hundred titles upon Alchemy published in 
the nineteenth century, some of them being periodicals that 
run into the twentieth century.* In an impressive address 
to the New York Section of The American Chemical 
Society, Oct. i, 1897, on The Revival of Alchemy, t Dr. 
Bolton gives a vivid description of the progress of alchemy 
during the Middle Ages and subsequently. This address 
was not on the possibility or the probability, or the plausi- 
bility, but on the " revival " of alchemy ; the scrambled egg 
was unscrambled. While this infusion permeated the veins 
of chemists in all civilized countries, it reached its great- 
est virulence in France, where it had culminated in the 
establishing recently of a university (L'Universite Libre 
des Hautcs Etudes), under the auspices of the Alchemical 
Association of France, in collaboration with other societies 
of a similar kind. The first of its three faculties was " I. 
Faculty of Hermetic Sciences," its curriculum leading to 
the degree of " Baccalaureat en Kabala." 

ARGENTAURUM : An interesting phase of alchemy began 
in 1896 with the announcement by Dr. Stephen H. Emmens, 
a New York chemist, that he had discovered a method 
of producing gold from silver, and with three collaborators 
had formed a syndicate for the development of his process 
on a commercial scale. The first public announcements of 
their success in transmutation were made in several New 
York daily papers. The account reported in the Journal 
Dr. Emmens vouched for as " substantially correct." The 
announcement excited sufficient general attention to lead the 
editor of the Engineering and Mining Journal of New York 

* A Select Bibliography of Chemistry, by Henry Carrington Bolton. 
( Smithsonian Collections. ) 

t Science, December 10, 1897. 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 67 

to ask Dr. Emmens to state in that periodical what he 
had accomplished, with so much of detail as he felt willing 
to make public. The attitude of the editor, at first merely 
that of doubt, became rather unfriendly, and eventually 
might be considered hostile. Several letters were exchanged, 
the correspondence becoming quite sarcastic, and were pub- 
lished in full in the Engineering and Mining Journal in 
several issues of September, 1896. Dr. Emmens declined 
to make his process known on the ground that such knowl- 
edge, instead of being a public benefit, would prove a 
financial and commercial disaster. It is delightful to see 
how dearly such exploiters and promoters have the public 
welfare at heart. Nevertheless he was obliged from time 
to time to make explanations. He professed to obtain from 
silver a substance which he regarded the " raw material out 
of which both gold and silver were constructed by the 
hand of nature/" This substance he called " Argentaurum." 
He was able to bring this to a denser state, in which it had 
the appearance and properties of ordinary metallic gold. 
He denied the propriety of confounding this work with 
the alchemy of the ancients, in which the philosopher's 
stone or a suitable " medicine " is applied to a base metal 
to convert it into a noble one. Argentaurum and the re- 
sulting gold were to be viewed as the legitimate consequence 
of the fact that all the metals are identical in substance, 
and their different properties depend on the different ways 
in which the particles of the common substance are ar- 
ranged. In this he was simply following out the idea of 
one basic form of all matter. He insisted that his work was 
not alchemy ; that it was in strict conformity to the existing 
state of chemical science; that the periodic law of the 
elements plainly indicated an allotropic form of silver 
or gold, or of a substance intermediate between them ; that 
argentaurum fulfilled this indication: and transmutationists 
everywhere hailed argentaurum as the " missing link." Let- 



68 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

ters and papers on this and other subjects, which Dr. 
Emmens wrote about this time, were called by him col- 
lectively "Argentaurum Papers," and, as we shall see 
elsewhere, infra, The Overturning of Scientific Theories, 
p. 97, were in some instances as revolutionary in social and 
physical science as in chemistry. Concerning the gold from 
argentaurum Dr. Emmens stated further: 

" The metal which we have made from silver answers every test 
to which the United States Government Assay Office subjects the 
gold offered to them for sale. It is, therefore, gold to all intents 
and purposes. This metal made from pure silver by the process 
discovered by us could be proved to be gold in a court of law. It 
not only answers every test of the Government mints, but it also 
has every quality required by the gold of commerce, having the 
same color, weight, and strength." * 

He made a feeble disclaimer against being regarded as 
an alchemist, but in response to his protest the propagandists 
of this pseudo-science would have none of it; they recog- 
nized in him a kindred spirit, they welcomed him to their 
ranks, they made him an honorary member of the Alchemical 
Society, they extended to him everywhere the glad hand of 
fellowship, and alchemist he was, willy-nilly. 

The Argentaurum Laboratory began transmuting silver 
into gold early in 1896, and on April 6, 1897, the U. S. 
Assay Office in New York reported the following figures 
of an analysis of an ingot sold to the Government by the 
syndicate, and purporting to have been produced by their 
process. 

Weight before fusion 7.06 ounces 

after " 7.04 

Weight of gold 65.80% 

" " silver 26.00% 

Value of gold contained in ingot 9576 dollars 

" " silver " " " i.u 

Cost of analysis 1.22 

Net value paid to syndicate 95-65 " 

* Engineering and Mining Journal, New York, Sept. 5, 1896. 



THE TRANSMUTATION OF METALS 69 

On page 32 of a work by M. de Veze, the author says : 

" In a. letter dated August 27, 1897, Mr. Emmens announced to 
me that he had just taken to the mint his tenth ingot of gold. ... A 
first dividend has already been distributed to the members of the 
Argentaurum Syndicate and it will be followed by many others." 
He also extracts from later letters from Dr. Emmens, " We have 
just deposited our eleventh ingot which brings our total production 
of Argentaurum Gold to 150.42 ounces (4 kg. 956 g.). The net 
profit to date is $522.95 or 2,700 fr." * 

Throughout the book the author builds upon Dr. Emmens 
as one of the pillars of their faith. Among the mutations of 
the doctrine of transmutation, argentaurum seemed one of 
the most plausible ; but, launched at the time of a " silver 
craze " in the politics of this country, there was inevitable 
suspicion of an attempt to depreciate gold by an appreciation 
of silver. This, of course, was strenuously denied. Dr. 
Emmens made promises of demonstrations at the World's 
Fair to be held in Paris in 1900, with a great fanfare, 
but they never materialized. Extraordinary as were the 
statements about argentaurum it neither excited the interest 
of the public nor enlisted the support of capitalists, and the 
whole matter simply dropped out of sight. Its quiet dis- 
appearance was as remarkable as its appearance. 

But transmutation of the elements does seem to have 
occurred, and that through no touch of a philosopher's 
stone. By no Zoroastrian fires or Kabalistic rites, or Rosi- 
crucian ceremonies, but by a process of her own, Nature 
has performed this wonder has probably been performing 
it since time began, and has only now revealed it, and modern 
chemistry has seen the element helium grow out of some- 
thing that was not helium a result of the mysterious conduct 
radioactivity. Not only that, it has discerned such an order 
of succession in radioactive products as to leave little doubt 
that transmutations follow one another in a series that 

* La Transmutation des metaux. L'Or alchemique, LS Argen- 
taurum, par J. Marcus de Veze, Paris, 1902. 



70 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

leads to the familiar metal, lead. It seems rather to be 
expected, however, that substances of lower atomic weight 
will come from those of higher. Thus uranium might 
readily originate helium, and if any of the known substances 
are to be produced artificially they would be more likely 
to be substances of small atomic weight. The probable pro- 
duction of lithium is an example, but the production of 
lead would be in contravention of that idea. A similar 
notion, though formed on different grounds, was held of 
old: Sir Francis Bacon thought possibly gold might be 
debased into lead, but it was not reasonable to expect (the) 
ignoble (metal) lead to produce (the) noble (metal) gold. 

The hope of the alchemists is no longer the vision of a 
dream ; but neither is its fulfilment under human control, by 
which one may produce gold or silver at will. So singularly 
is the final product of radioactivity (if lead is a final 
product) associated with the process that this resulting 
metal, which itself is radioactive, is not identical with com- 
mon lead, but is designated " radio-lead." Is there not a 
suspicious similarity between such a term and " alchemical 
gold," or even the earlier idea that the mercury existent in 
iron is not identical with mercury in its native state? 

Chemical nomenclature now takes account of the fact 
that an element may exist in more than one atomic form 
while retaining the same essential nature, the different forms 
being called " isotopes." 

REFERENCES 

History of Chemistry; by Ernest von Meyer, Translated by 

George McGowan. 

A History of Chemistry; by James Campbell Brown. 
A Select Bibliography of Chemistry (Smithsonian Collections, 

Part of Vol. XLIV) ; Publication No. 1440: List of Works 

on Alchemy in the XIX century, by Henry Carrington 

Bolton. 

Rudolf II und Seine Zeit ; von Anton Gindely, Prag, 1861. 
Allgemeine Deutsche Biographic: Rudolf II, Deutscher Kaiser. 
Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, by Charles Mackay, 

Philadelphia, 1850. 



PERPETUAL MOTION 

Visit a workshop it matters little what shop, or where 
talk with the mechanic skilled or unskilled, his name is 
Legion, and you will find that he has present in his mind 
or discarded in his garret a device for perpetual motion. 
You would be likely to make the same discovery if you con- 
sulted a clerk in a counting house, a minister in his study, 
or the president of a bank. Turn to the man of all men 
in the whole country who is most familiarly associated 
with the wizardry of invention perhaps you know his name 
and see if he has not at some time been inoculated with 
this same virus. When it began to work cannot be known 
but historically this " folly '* is not so old as some of the 
others. While the baffling mathematical problems and the 
search for their solution date back several thousands of 
years, authentic records of The Perpetual Motion are prob- 
ably not more than five hundred or six hundred years old, 
but of the many mechanical vagaries unquestionably this 
has been the most absorbing. If, by a machine that would 
produce perpetual motion, we mean simply a contrivance 
that will go on indefinitely without human or animal as- 
sistance, the problem is not only solvable but is in constant 
act of being solved. With the ordinary forces of nature any 
machine may be kept continually in operation. The inces- 
sant flow of water over a waterfall is perpetual motion, and 
needs only a wheel placed under the falling water to com- 
municate power to other machinery. The turbines under 
Niagara are examples. Alternations of temperature which 
cause a body to expand and contract will accomplish the 
same result. " Perpetual Motion " as a mere fact is a com- 
monplace of science if it is not understood to imply a per- 
petual supply of power from nowhere. The ceaseless flow 

71 



72 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of rivers, the incessant tides, the movements of the earth 
and other heavenly bodies are perpetual motion, sufficient 
for all human purposes. But these do not express the 
purpose of the inventors of perpetual motion. Their idea 
was and is to produce a device which, when set going, would 
of itself develop power enough to keep it in operation 
without drawing upon extraneous sources. The effect of 
gravity, whether helpful or harmful, was always within 
their purview, but no other physical agency. 

The inventions have been of multifarious design, employ- 
ing about every known principle of mechanics and some 
that are not known, but they all fall into a few classes. 
One type, comprising many of the inventions, is some sort 
of pump which will raise so much water that when it is 
discharged upon the wheel or other part of the mechanism, 
it will drive the machine with more than sufficient power to 
pump up enough water to keep it going. 

Another type is a wheel with jointed arms or spokes that 
hang down from the side of the hub that is rising, but 
when passing the top, an arm swings out into a horizontal 
position, and having a weight at the end, it propels the 
wheel. There are always one or more extended weighted 
arms on one side of the wheel, to raise the slack pendent 
arms on the other side. Instead of jointed arms the wheel 
may have radial tubes containing balls that roll out from the 
hub to the rim on the side that is descending, and roll in 
from the rim to the^hub on the other side, thus serving the 
same purpose as the arms with weights at the end. The 
wheel is overbalanced. A favorite variation is a clock that 
shall be selfwinding. Where the winding up has been 
accomplished by utilizing cleverly some of the work of 
the descending weights, this has been as fallacious as the 
scheme of pumps. This type of automatic renewal, like 
many others that began honestly, has been exploited fraud- 
ulently to victimize the credulous, by the introduction of 



PERPETUAL MOTION 73 

some auxiliary contrivance which is skilfully concealed, and 
for a while escapes detection. But genuine selfwinding 
clocks have been constructed, and consequently perpetual mo- 
tion, in a qualified sense, has been secured, by using other 
natural agencies. Expansion and contraction of a piece of 
metal in the clock, properly geared to the winding machinery 
has served the purpose and so, too, has the varying pressure 
of the atmosphere. But these, though genuine, are not in- 
stances of perpetual motion as originally understood and 
sought after. The Mechanics' Magazine (London, 1823- 
1872) at first opened its columns freely to the consideration 
of perpetual motion. No amount of ridicule or criticism 
could quench the ardor of the perpetual motion enthusiasts 
rather, opposition seemed to stimulate it. Disappointments 
were recounted by the editor and correspondents, and frauds 
and tricks of all sorts were exposed; never were prop- 
agandists more steadily admonished or more vainly. And 
yet, only the frauds were supported by actual working 
models ; in the sincere attempts, the inventors relied wholly 
upon drawings and descriptions to establish their conten- 
tion, with an insistence that the machine would work, and a 
challenge to the editor and everybody else to prove that it 
would not work, and to show why it would not. For a long 
time an impression was general in England that there was 
an outstanding offer from the Government of a large reward 
for the successful invention of such a machine, and in 
spite of the efforts of publishers to correct this error, one 
inventor after another asks for information how to pro- 
ceed to get the reward, in case his invention is accepted. 
In response to such an inquiry, the editor of The Mechanics 
Magazine for Jan. 29, 1848 says : 

" No reward has been offered by government ; it has done many 
foolish things but none so foolish as this. Before our correspondent 
wastes any more time on his schemes, let him first seat himself on 
a three legged stool, and try to lift himself by the legs of his 



74 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

stool. If he succeeds in that, he may go on the want of government 
reward notwithstanding." s 

The mental attitude of present-day seekers after per- 
petual motion is severely censured by Mr. Dircks, but his 
strictures are founded altogether on the record. He says : 

" A more self-willed, self-satisfied, or self-deluded class of the 
community, making at the same time pretension to superior knowledge, 
it would be impossible to imagine. They hope against hope, scorning 
all opposition with ridiculous vehemence, although centuries have 
not advanced them one step in the way of progress." 

He enumerates the classes of the people high, low, igno- 
rant, educated that have essayed to produce the perpetual 
motion, and says : 

" There is something lamentable, degrading, and almost insane in 
pursuing the visionary schemes of past ages . . . not a solitary 
discovery is on record, not one absolutely ingenious scheme projected, 
or one simple self-motive model accomplished. . . . " * 

But when one has made an illusion part of his very existence 
can he welcome its destruction? Is there a more pitiful 
being in the world than a man with shattered illusions ? 

Perpetual Motion inventors are still numerous, and 
in most cases are plainly cranky ; they are obsessed 
with the infallibility of their scheme which, at the worst, 
lacks only some trifling change or addition to make it a 
success and their persistence makes them actual nuisances. 
They are always " open to conviction " but never can or 
never will see what is wrong about their device, no matter 
how plainly it is shown to them. Often their idea is so 
crude, so crass, that no intelligent mechanic would fail to 
see its absurdity, but in other instances the invention is 
diabolically clever, and even if the scientist does appreciate 
its fault, he has difficulty in pointing it out or explaining 
it. It might be expected that applications for patenting per- 

* Perpetuum Mobile : A History of the Search for Self Motive 
Power from the ijth to the igth Century. 



PERPETUAL MOTION 75 

petual motion machines would become embarrassing to the 
government unless the Patent Office adopted some definite 
policy regarding them. As the impression has prevailed at 
some times and places that the U. S. Patent Office had 
decided to reject outright all such applications, the author 
addressed an inquiry to the Commissioner of Patents as to 
the attitude of the Office on this subject. The reply was 
as follows (Jan. 25, 1917) : 

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 

UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE 

WASHINGTON 
PERPETUAL MOTION : 

Replying to your recent letter, you are advised that the Patent 
Office understands the term " perpetual motion " to mean a mechanical 
motion creating energy, that is, a machine doing work and operating 
without the aid of any power other than that which is generated 
by the machine itself, and which when once started will operate 
for an indefinite time. 

The views of the Office are in accord with those of the scientists 
who have investigated the subject, and are to the effect that mechanical 
perpetual motion is a physical impossibility. These views can be 
rebutted only by the exhibition of a working model. Many persons 
have filed applications for patent on perpetual motion, but such ap- 
plications have been rejected as inoperative and opposed to well- 
known physical laws, and in no instance has the requirement of the 
Patent Office for a working model ever been complied with. 

In view of these facts the Office will not now permit such an 
application to be filed without a model and this practice has been 
adopted in order to save applicants the loss of the fees paid with 
their applications. After an application for patent has been con- 
sidered by the Examiner the filing fee of $15 cannot be returned. 

W. F. WOOLARD, 

Chief Clerk. 

The failure to submit a working model is doubtless due 
to the lack of that " trifling " addition, which cannot affect 
the validity of the idea on which the invention rests, but 
the applicant cannot risk the danger of being anticipated 



76 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

by some one else, and therefore cannot afford to wait for the 
completion of a successful model. 

F. Charlesworth, Assistant Examiner in the British 'Patent 
Office, says that the earliest British patent for a Perpetual 
Motion machine was granted on March 9, 1635, the method 
of action being not described ; the next was in 1662, for an 
overbalanced wheel with weights at the ends of jointed arms. 
Between 1617 and 1903 over six hundred applications had 
been made to that Office for Perpetual Motion, all except 
twenty-five being since 1854. They were of course greatly 
varied in character but mainly mechanical, their operation 
depending on various agencies chiefly gravity, loss of 
equilibrium, specific gravity of floats and weights in water 
or other liquids, receptacles inflated with air or other gas 
under water, compression and subsequent expansion of 
gases, and surface tension. So confident were some of 
the applicants, that they considered it necessary to include 
a brake in their machine, that it might be stopped or re- 
strained from reaching too high speed.* It was not until 
the latter part of the eighteenth century that physical science 
reached a state of development that seemed to preclude the 
possibility of the perpetual motion, and not until the middle 
of the nineteenth was its inherent impossibility believed to 
have been assured. This came with the establishment of 
the doctrine of the conservation of energy, and the deg- 
radation of energy, and yet, as just stated, nearly six 
hundred applications were made to the British Patent Office 
in the forty-eight years from 1855 to 1903. Not every me- 
chanic is acquainted with the conservation of energy as a prin- 
ciple of science, and of those who are, not all can escape the 
lurking thought that sources or forms of energy may be in 
operation that are not yet recognized either as to their 
extent or their mode of action. Again among those who do 
recognize and accept this doctrine are some who question 
* Gassier' s Magazine, V, 29, 1905. 



PERPETUAL MOTION 77 

the correctness of one or another supposed law of nature. 
They therefore hope that by dodging such a law, or by the 
help of some free energy somewhere, they can secure a 
oerpetual motion of a so-called " second kind." It will be re- 
membered that the astonishing revelations of radium and 
other radioactive substances seemed, at first, to upset the 
conservation of energy, and Lord Rayleigh invented a 
device which acted continually under such radiation, while 
apparently the energy of the source of radiation was un- 
diminished. He was not so hasty as some others, however, 
who were ready to believe that the doctrine had broken 
down, and now such perpetual motion is to be regarded 
as only one of the second kind, which employs natural 
agencies not differing from solar radiation of light or heat, 
or even from tidal power in their relation to the problem. 

So generally is the impossibility of " The Perpetual 
Motion " now recognized among scientific men that when a 
hypothesis leads to perpetual motion as its certain result, 
that fact is regarded as a proof of error in the hypothesis, 
like a reductio ad absurdum in logic or mathematics. 

In an early work (1648) entitled " Mathematicall Magick," 
by Bishop John Wilkins of Chester, England, its author 
says: 

" The discovery of a * perpetual motion ' hath been attempted by 
Chymistry. Paracelsus" (d. 1541) "and his followers have bragged 
that by their separations and extractions they can make a little 
world which shall have the same perpetual motions with this 
Microcosme with the representation of all Meteors, Thunder, Snow, 
Rain, the courses of the sea, in its ebbs and flows; and the 
like. But these miraculous promises would require as great a faith 
to believe them as a power to perform them. 

'At nusquam totos inter qui talia curant 
Apparet ullus, qui re miracula tanta 
Comprobet. . . . ' 

And though they often talk of such great matters, yet we can never 



78 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

see them confirmed by a real experiment.* And then, besides, every 
particular author in that art hath such a distinct language of his 
own (all of them being so full of allegories and affected obscurities), 
that 'tis very hard for any one (unless he be thoroughly versed 
among them) to find out what they mean, much more to try it." 

The procedure by which one can obtain a perpetual motion 
in a chemical way, for example, is this : 

" Mix five ounces of with an equal weight of ^ ; t grind them 
together with ten ounces of sublimate; dissolve them in a Cellar 
upon some marble for the space of four days till they become like oyl- 
olive; distil this with fire of chaff or driving fire, and it will 
sublime into a dry substance and so, by repeating of these dis- 
solvings and distillings, there will be at length divers small atomes 
which, being put into a glass that is well luted and kept dry, will 
have a perpetual motion.'* (From Dirck's Pcrpctuum Mobile, p. 3.) 
It is not quite clear how the Chaldeans could associate the 
planet Mercury with the metal mercury, when that metal was not 
discovered until more than two hundred years after the Chaldean 
empire ceased to exist ; but this particular connection may be of later 
date than the others. Chaucer writes of this association in the Canter- 

*The letter from the U. S. Patent Office, on page 84 would 
indicate that Bishop John Wilkins* ground of complaint against 
perpetual motion inventors had not been removed during the centuries 
between his time, 1650 and the present. 

t The use of planetary symbols for metals was common in early 
chemistry and, it is said, began with the Chaldean philosophers and 
was continued by their successors in astronomy and astrology. 
They associated the heavenly bodies not only with metals, but also 
with the organs of the human body. The latter they divided into 
twelve parts corresponding to the twelve signs of the zodiac. They 
considered the metals to* be seven in number, corresponding to the 
sun, moon, and five planets, with their symbols as follows : 

Gold O Sun 

Silver ( Moon 

Mercury g Mercury 

Copper 9 Venus 

Iron cj* Mars 

Tin QJ. Jupiter 

Lead f? Saturn 



PERPETUAL MOTION 79 

bury Tales about 1390. In the Canon's Yeoman's Tale, the Yeoman 
reels off a long string of scientific nomenclature with which he was 
made acquainted in his service of the Canon, and enumerates the four 
spirits and the seven bodies thus : 

" The f oure spirites and the bodies sevene, 
By ordre, as ofte I herde my lord hem nevene. 

The firste spirit quyk-silver called is, 
The seconde orpyment, the thridde, y-wis, 
Sal-armonyak, and the ferthe brymstoon, 
The bodyes sevene eek, lo, hem heere anoon 1 

Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe, 
Mars iren, mercuric quyk-silver we clepe, 
Saturnus leed, and Juppiter is tyn, 
And Venus coper, by my fader kyn." 

He classes the perpetual motion machines as: 

"i. Those depending upon chymical extractions; 

2. By magnetical virtue ; 

3. By the natural affection of gravity." 

According to Bishop Wilkins, hydraulic machines, kept 
going by the descent of the liquid which they had raised, 
were used earlier than the overbalanced wheel, the earliest 
and apparently most attractive form being that in which 
water was raised from a cistern by the familiar Screw of 
Archimedes. The figure illustrates one variant of this type. 

When discharged at the top of the screw the water fell 
upon the vanes of a wheel mounted upon the screw shaft, 
being caught in a vessel at a lower level and again dis- 
charged upon the vanes of another wheel; and as this 
operation could be again and again repeated, the descending 
water would more than suffice to keep the machine in 
operation. This appeared in 1642, but it is difficult to fix 
the deserts of these inventions chronologically. In a work 
by Robert Fludd, which appeared in 1618, is described a 
common water wheel which sets in motion a chain pump 
by means of a system of toothed wheels, and the pump is 
supposed to raise the water necessary to keep the wheel 
going. 



80 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 




Perpetual Motion by Means of the Screw of Archimedes. 
(The screw LM is inside the tube AB and its lower end should dip 

into the water.) 

The accompanying figure is a sketch accredited to 
Vilard de Honnecourt, a Gothic architect of the I3th cen- 




Honnecourt's Overbalanced Wheel. 



PERPETUAL MOTION 81 

tury, who gave a description of it, and this seems to be 
the earliest authentic record of a perpetual motion machine. 
It represents a wheel with an odd number of mallet-like 
weights attached to the rim by a hinge at the end of the 
handle. It is supposed that when set going, the fall of 
a mallet upon the rim of the wheel gives an impulse to 
the latter, and as that action in general places more of the 
mallets on the descending side of the wheel than on the 
ascending, the motion is continuous! A number of Hon- 
necourt's free hand sketches, including this among others, 
are in the Paris Scole des Chartes. (F. Ichak, Das Per- 
pctuum mobile, pp. 8, 9.) There are, however, allusions 
indicating that the idea was not absent from the minds of 
some of the philosophers, even of pre-Christian times. 
Although the seeds were sown so early, they seemed to 
germinate and fructify much more rapidly in the Middle 
Ages, that period of darkness and superstition, from which 
so much of knowledge did actually emerge in a renaissance, 
but the growth of this particular vagary has been most vig- 
orous in modern times. 

Perpetual motion cannot exist with the principle of con- 
servation of energy in any machine that has prejudical 
resistances such as friction or the inertia of the surround- 
ing air, and the establishing of that principle did much to- 
ward quieting the restless spirit, but any apparent contra- 
diction of this principle reawakens the sleeper. Leonardo 
da Vinci (1452-1519) dallied with the problem. 

Of the overbalanced wheel, there are many variations. 
A famous example of this type was produced by the Mar- 
quis of Worcester, about 1648. No picture of the wheel 
itself is available, though a somewhat circumstantial account 
of a demonstration with it at the Tower of London is on 
record, but its character is that shown in the diagram. Many 
devices for producing perpetual motion have been sub- 

7 



82 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

mitted to the author for comment. In almost every in- 
stance they have been more or less ingenious variants of 
earlier inventions. 




Supposed Form of the Marquis of Worcester's Overbalanced Wheel. 

One suggested by Mr. J. S. Hamilton of New York 
may be taken as an innovation inasmuch as it purports 
to utilize a modern idea, namely, that of the injector re- 
versed, so as to act as an ejector. Since an injector, 
by means of a steam jet, will cause a stream of water 
to enter a boiler against a pressure equal to or greater 
than that of the steam jet, then, according to this inventor, 
if a stream of water flowing out of a cistern at a high level 
have its velocity sufficiently increased, it will re-enter the 
cistern at a lower point and also do work in its passage 
external to the cistern. 

"Starting the turbine from exterior source, (motor or engine), 
establishes the vacuum" (below it), says the inventor, "after which 
the turbine will run alone. The initial pressure will seek the 
vacuum and perform work en route. The water will return by reason 



PERPETUAL MOTION 



83 



of its increased velocity secured by the nozzling effect of the 
passage ways inside the turbine. The entrance gates of a water 
turbine nozzle the water, and since the turbines are radial inward 
flow, the passage ways in the ' runner ' are more narrow near the 
center where the water leaves it. Provided the water's velocity 
is increased it will enter, just as the injector has proven times 
without number." 

Check Valve 
-^ 

Air 




m 



'Wafer'. 



lurbine 



Bernoulli's Principle Applied to Perpetual Motion. 

A discussion of this with its author would inevitably in- 
volve a discussion of the injector, to say nothing of what 
is to keep the turbine in motion if the water, on leaving 
it, is to have a greater velocity and therefore more energy, 
than on entering it; but it would not be difficult to show 
that its successful performance would contradict the con- 
servation of energy. It is needless to say that this machine 
never reached the stage of a " working model." 

With the well-known Principle of Archimedes staring 
them in the face, inventors could not be expected long to 
neglect so helpful an idea in their attempts to solve the 
problem of perpetual motion. 

According to this principle, a body immersed in a liquid 
is said to " lose weight," or weigh less than in air. A force 
that will lift a stone weighing one hundred pounds in air 
will lift one of a hundred and fifty pounds in water, and 



84 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

a block of wood will not only weigh nothing in water but 
will rise with a lifting effort of its own. As a simple 
application of this principle, an endless chain passing around 
an upper wheel in air and a lower one in water has ledges 
or buckets attached to it carrying balls, and as they descend 
they enter the water at the foot of the machine and are 
carried around the lower wheel, and then, either by the ap- 
paratus itself or by their own buoyancy, the balls are brought 
up in a column of water that reaches to the upper wheel, 
where they are discharged upon the descending side of the 
chain. The preponderance of weight on this side is the 
driving force. It is extremely simple (and the believer 
in it is scarcely less so). 

The astonishing thing is the employment of auxiliary 
pieces like the balls just mentioned, which are light in the 
water on one side of the chain, and heavy on the other, 
i.e., the descending side. If the idea were workable at all, 
the endless belt, a cord, or chain alone would be sufficient 
to demonstrate the action without the help of balls or 
weights, for the portion in the column of liquid would be 
buoyed up and so be lighter than the other portion of the 
chain, and the movement would go merrily on. It was 
left to a recent inventor to suggest the machine thus simpli- 
fied, though he appears to be unaware that the general idea 
had occurred to others before him. A description and dis- 
cussion of this attempt at the problem is given by John Phin 
in his The Seven Follies of Science* There is no diffi- 
culty in representing it by a drawing, but the hopeful as- 
pirant for a patent is met by that discouraging demand for 
a " working model," and it seems impossible in practice to 
get a column of liquid to stand higher in one vessel than 
in another with which it communicates! Various changes 
have been rung upon the design, including the buoyant ef- 

* The Seven Follies of Science, John Phin, New York, 1912. 



PERPETUAL MOTION 85 

fort of liquids upon vessels that are inflated in the liquid 
and deflated outside. 

Thus statics, dynamics, hydraulics, pneumatics, all as 
branches of mechanics, have been called upon in connection 
with gravity; and by less direct action, heat, light, mag- 
netism and electricity have been invoked in this fruitless 
endeavor to inveigle Nature into repudiating her own laws. 

THE REDHEFFER FIASCO 

One American invention played a conspicuous if not very 
creditable part among perpetual motion machines. This 
was the invention of Charles Redheffer who exhibited it 
in Philadelphia in 1812 and 1813. Although it continued 
in operation apparently as long as its maker desired, it was 
perhaps not inherently more or less plausible than some 
others but it became une cause celebre. There were two 
circumstances connected with it that gave it celebrity, and 
entitle it to special notice: It created so much of a furore 
that the legislature of Pennsylvania thought it worth while 
to appoint a commission of eminent engineers to examine 
its claims, inquire into their validity and report upon it, and 
did appoint such a commission. This was a dignity to 
which such machines rarely attained. The other circum- 
stance was the exceedingly clever way in which the fraudu- 
lent character of the machine was twice detected; once, by 
the eye, trained to observe the niceties of mechanical action ; 
and once, by the ear, skilled to detect any peculiarity in the 
sound of moving machinery. At an appointed time the 
commission visited the house in which the machine was 
exhibited, on the Schuykill near Philadelphia, but arrived 
there only to find the house locked and the key missing. 
They did not get the opportunity to examine the machine 
and could only inspect it through a barred window. They 
saw a vertical shaft carrying a horizontal disc on which 
two inclined planes bore weighted cars that descended and 



86 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

rose at certain points in the rotation of the disc. This 
action of the planes and cars drove the shaft and disc which, 
in its turn, propelled further mechanism. The horizontal 
disc was a spur wheel and the teeth in its edge engaged 
with those of a smaller wheel and so, ostensibly, drove the 
rest of the machinery. One of the visiting commissioners, 
Mr. Nathan Sellers, took with him his young son, Coleman 
Sellers, who was a mechanical genius, and was keenly inter- 
ested in the whole affair. Young Sellers saw something that 
escaped the others; his attention was caught by the appear- 
ance of the cogs in these two wheels. They were not much 
worn, only smoothed a little, but what little effect of rub- 
bing together they did show was on the wrong side of the 
cogs! The faces of the cogs that will show wear depends 
upon which wheel is driving the other and, in this instance, 
the small wheel proved to be driving the larger. If the 
fact is the reverse of this, as it was represented to be, then 
to the mechanic whose eye detects this discrepancy, such 
a machine would appear to be running backwards. Al- 
though the source of propulsion was not discovered the 
deception was unmistakable. After returning home the 
young man told his father what he had discovered; the 
latter then employed a skilful mechanic to make a small 
model just like the Redheffer machine, but propelled by a 
clockwork mechanism concealed in an ornamental post of 
the framework. This model exactly duplicated the be- 
havior of the larger machine, to the astonishment and 
mystification of Redheffer himself to whom Sellers showed 
it. Conscious of his own trickery he was scared by the 
idea that another had actually achieved what he pretended 
to do, and proposed to buy out young Sellers, offering him 
a handsome share in the profits to be derived from the 
machine, (See Article on the Redheffer Perpetual Motion 
Machine, by Henry Morton, in the Journal of the Franklin 
Institute, Vol. 139, 1895, p. 246.) 



PERPETUAL MOTION 87 

An exposure like this which did not actually reveal the 
secret of the machine was not sufficient to check the interest 
of those -who wanted to believe in it, and the exhibitions 
were continued. In 1813, soon after the fiasco in Phila- 
delphia, this same machine or a duplicate of it was placed 
on exhibition in New York, where it was to meet its second 
reverse. The sequel is well told by Mr. C. D. Golden in 
his Life of Robert Fulton. 

" One of these perpetual motions," says Mr. Golden, speaking of 
the Redheffer machine, "commenced its career in this city" (New 
York), "in eighteen hundred and thirteen. Mr. Fulton was a 
perfect unbeliever in Redheffer's discovery, and although hundreds 
were daily paying their dollar to see the wonder, Mr. Fulton could 
not be prevailed upon for some time to follow the crowd. After 
a few days, however, he was induced by some of his friends to 
visit the machine. It was in an isolated house in the suburbs of 
the city. 

" In a very short time after Mr. Fulton had entered the room in 
which it was exhibited, he exclaimed, 'why, this is a crank motion/ 
His ear enabled him to distinguish that the machine was moved by 
a crank, which always gives an unequal power, and therefore an 
unequal velocity in the course of each revolution; and a nice and 
practised ear may perceive that the sound is not uniform. If the 
machine had been kept in motion by what was its ostensible moving 
power, it must have had an equable rotary motion, and the sound 
would have been always the same. 

"After some little conversation with the showman, Mr. Fulton 
did not hesitate to declare, that the machine was an imposition, and to 
tell the gentleman that he was an impostor. 

" Notwithstanding the anger and bluster which these charges 
excited, he assured the company that the thing was a cheat, and 
that if they would support him in the attempt, he would detect it at 
the risk of paying any penalty if he failed. 

" Having obtained the assent of all who were present, he began 
by knocking away some very thin little pieces of lath, which ap- 
peared to be no part of the machinery, but to go from the frame 
of the machine to the wall of the room, merely to keep the corner 
posts of the machine steady. 

" It was found that a catgut string was led through one of these 
laths and the frame of the machine, to the head of the upright shaft 



88 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of a principal wheel: that the catgut was conducted through the 
wall, and along the floors of the second story to a back cockloft) 
at a distance of a number of yards from the room which contained 
the machine, and there was found the moving power. This was a 
poor old wretch, with an immense beard and all the appearance of 
having suffered a long imprisonment; who, when they broke in 
upon him, was unconscious of what had happened below, and who, 
while he was seated on a stool, gnawing a crust, was with one 
hand turning a crank. 

" The proprietor of the perpetual motion soon disappeared. The 
mob demolished his machine, the destruction of which immediately 
put a stop to that which had been, for so long a time, and to so 
much profit, exhibited in Philadelphia ! " 

Besides the numberless variations in the methods of apply- 
ing the principles of mechanics to secure a return of more 
power than is expended on the machine, consciously or 
unconsciously the principles of themodynamics were in- 
voked by inventors for the same purpose. The fallacy was 
the same. Only two generalizations are needed to comprise 
all known principles of heat in connection with work, and 
these are called the two laws of thermodynamics. They 
are to the effect that (i) a definite amount of heat has an 
exact equivalent in a definite amount of mechanical work, 
and either of these can be transformed into the other; (2) 
if by any means we cause heat to be transferred from a 
body to another at a higher temperature, we must in the 
process supply the system of bodies with energy from some 
outside source ; no self-acting machine will do it of itself. 

While the first ^of these laws is universally and unre- 
servedly accepted, the second has always been a subject 
of dispute and still is so. The desire to get something for 
nothing and the belief in the possibility of doing so are 
too strong to yield to a dictum the demolition of which would 
seem to assure this possibility. To disprove a law by a 
process of reasoning is one thing, to violate it by a process 
of action is another. In theory the law has been con- 
troverted repeatedly, and disproved, at least in the opinion 



PERPETUAL MOTION 89 

of the controvertists, and if it could only be violated in 
practice the perpetual motion could be obtained ; the " work- 
ing model " demanded by the Patent Office might be forth- 
coming. 

THE LIQUEFACTION OF AIR AND THE HOPES IT AROUSED; 
PERPETUAL MOTION OF THE SECOND KIND 

Why should a little matter like the second law of ther- 
modynamics obstruct the path to perpetual motion when 
we consider what we might achieve if we could be rid of 
it? The boundless possibilities growing out of the perpetual 
motion were too fascinating, its unlimited and uncomplain- 
ing response to the heightened complexity and increased 
demands of modern civilization was too satisfying for 
it to be abandoned, and every advance in science stimulated 
the hope that a new principle would do away with the 
limitations imposed by earlier partial and imperfect knowl- 
edge. 

By 1895 gases had been liquefied by the so-called re- 
generative method with less difficulty and expense than had 
before been possible; Mr. Charles E. Tripler of New York 
had devised apparatus for the liquefaction of air in large 
quantity, and a popular article concerning Mr. Tripler's labo- 
ratory and his remarbable work was published in McClurc's 
Magazine for March 1899. This article, written by Mr. 
Ray Stannard Baker, then of the editoral staff of the maga- 
zine, contained some startling statements and one especially 
which meant the refutation of the second law of ther- 
modynamics and the achievement of the perpetual motion. 
Mr. Tripler said: 

44 1 have actually made about ten gallons of liquid air in my 
liquefier by the use of about three gallons in my engine. There 
is, therefore, a surplusage of seven gallons that has cost me noth- 
ing, and which I can use elsewhere as power." 

The very cold liquid air in the boiler of an engine would 



90 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

be vaporized and have high pressure under the heating effect 
of the atmosphere, without any other fuel, and the air thus 
under pressure would drive the engine which, in turn, would 
compress more air to be liquefied and employed for power 
purposes. The use of the air for driving the engine con- 
stituted no difficulty either in theory or practice, but ac- 
cording to accepted ideas of science, as much work would 
be required in compressing the air and depriving it of heat 
as the air could possibly restore in again reaching its nor- 
mal pressure and temperature. Still, there was Mr. Tripler's 
statement which he offered to verify in his laboratory. 
At the invitation of McClurc's Magazine, through Mr. 
Baker, two professors, heads of the departments of Physics 
and Chemistry in a prominent university, visited Mr. 
Tripler's laboratory to witness such a demonstration. The 
visit, though made by appointment, proved to be not con- 
veniently timed for Mr. Tripler, and nothing came of it 
except a brief comment from each of them criticizing Mr. 
Tripler's claims. This the magazine did not publish, and 
the exploitation of liquid air and its wonders continued. 
Those who had declared war to the death on the second law 
of thermodynamics were elated and exultant. 

Mr. Tripler resented calling his invention a scheme for 
perpetual motion always insisting that the heat of the 
atmosphere was a furnace for his liquid air, and consistently 
refusing to admit that he lost any power in getting the air 
to a temperature Below that of the surrounding bodies, 
i.e., denying the validity of the second law of thermody- 
namics. The promises of the liquid air scheme were allur- 
ing bewilderingly so and its friends were loath to give up 
the hopes based upon them. Posing as an exemption from a 
painful but inexorable law, this fallacy lingered for several 
years and died hard. 

Another example of the " second kind " of perpetual mo- 
tion is found in a pamphlet entitled " Die Perpetuum mobile 



PERPETUAL MOTION 91 

Theorie," by Franz Hoffmann, of Saalfeld, Prussia. It was 
published in Leipzig, in 1912, three years after an inter- 
national aviation contest at Rheims, in which the Germans 
were worsted and two years before the outbreak of the 
great world war. 

It is a rather involved scheme which winds up with this 
naive bit of patriotic sentiment: 

" Any one who cannot understand that, there is no help for, it 
will happen with him just as with certain gentlemen who, some ten 
years ago, had not been able to understand that a body that was 
essentially heavier than air could nevertheless lift itself free in the 
air. The consequence of this intellectual debility was that three 
years ago in Rheims we had to let Messieurs Frenchmen and 
Americans fly away from us instead of the Germans leading the 
remaining nations in flying. 

44 Perhaps a gracious fate may preserve poor Germany from another 
Rheims humiliation that will come from the fact that not until other 
nations arrive in Hamburg or Bremen with their ' perpetual motion ' 
ships, will the German Michael awake from his lethargy." 

He implores every reader who still has any regard for 
Germany's name and honor to do what he can that, at 
least in respect to perpetual motion, Germany may remain 
in advance of the other nations ! 

THE KEELY MOTOR 

After the search for the perpetual motion was abandoned 
by true scientists, and the fallacy became too generally rec- 
ognized to make it a means of coaxing money from the 
credulous investor, the idea took the no less insidious 
character of a machine which required a constant moderate 
supply of power from an outside source, but would return 
this many times over. This result was to be accomplished 
by means of special mechanical actions or reactions which 
were declared to be either wholly new discoveries, or else 
actions that were not commonly understood. Practically un- 
limited supplies of power could be produced at little cost. 



92 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

These special actions were, of course, the inventor's secret, 
but among them " vibration " was one of the most potent, 
and twin brother to this was "radiation." A celebrated 
instance of this phase of the perpetual motion vagary was 
the Keely Motor. This, while not claiming to be a perpetual 




John W. Keely. 

motion machine, did purport to furnish motive power with 
a minimum expenditure of energy upon it. It comes there- 
fore in the class that legitimately succeeded the efforts to 
secure perpetual motion; but instead of being a sincere 
attempt to advance mechanical science by a genuine dis- 
covery of a new principle or some new application of old 
principles it was a fraud, although masquerading for a long 
time under the garb of honesty.. It possessed so many of 
the characteristics of this kind of foible as to justify a 
somewhat extended account of it. 

The inventor John Worrell Keely was a carpenter, who 
was born in Philadelphia in 1837 and died there in 1898. 
He was a good mechanic and a very clever talker, but not 
a highly educated man. With a claim to have discovered 
a new force in mechanics which was to work wonders, he 



PERPETUAL MOTION 93 

succeeded in inducing a dozen engineers and capitalists to 
organize a Keely Motor Company in New York in 1872, 
and to subscribe ten thousand dollars to begin the construc- 
tion of the motor. He immediately applied his money to 
the purchase of material and the construction of machinery, 
and began to attract the attention of the public in 1874 
when he gave a demonstration of the motor before a small 
company of prominent citizens of Philadelphia, November 
i oth of that year. 

Among the expedients resorted to in exploiting a scien- 
tific fraud, mystifying lingo is one of the commonest, and 
in this Mr. Keely was an adept. At this demonstration 
the machine, or so much of it as' was then to be exhibited, 
was called a " vibratory-generator " ; in a later demonstra- 
tion it was a " hydro-pneumatic-pulsating-vacu-engine " and 
changes in nomenclature were being rung continually 
always vague, delightfully general, and suggesting unlimited 
possibilities. The inventor's funds began to run low, but 
his plausibility sufficed to keep him afloat and he so com- 
pletely deluded his supporters, especially his most ardent 
one, Mrs. Bloomfield Moore, that he continued to hold their 
interest, and was kept on his feet financially. By 1890, 
however, the stockholders had become too weary (or wary) 
to be put off by evasions or tricks. Mr. Keely declared he 
was now on the eve of success ; he had arrived at that crucial 
stage, lacking just the one slight adjustment which, in all 
such cases, proves the insurmountable bar to final achievement. 
His " generator " had now become a " liberator " which 
would disintegrate air and release an etheric force of cyclonic 
strength. One spectator at a demonstration said that a 
pint of water poured into a cylinder seemed to work great 
wonders. " The gauge showed a pressure of more than 
fifty thousand pounds to the square inch. Great ropes were 
torn apart, iron bars broken in two or twisted out of shape, 
bullets discharged through twelve inch planks, by a force 



94 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

which could not be determined. In the glory of his exuber- 
ance Keely now declared that with one quart of water, he 
would be able to send a train of cars from Philadelphia to 
San Francisco, and that to propel a steamship f romNew York 
to Liverpool and return would require just about one gallon 
of the same." (Julius Moritzen, in The Cosmopolitan for 
April 1899.) His technical terms were bewildering, in- 
tentionally so ; " molecular vibration," " sympathetic equi- 
librium," " oscillation of the atom," " etheric disintegration," 
" quadruple negative harmonics," " atomic triplets," came 
glibly from his lips to confuse or to enthrall his auditors. 

At that time one of the greatest steamships in operation, 
the Teutonic of the White Star line, crossed the Atlantic in 
six days, driven by engines of 17000 H.P., expending about 
2,500,000 H.P.-hours of energy. That is just about the 
amount of energy now estimated to be liberated if the 
hydrogen in a half-pint of water were converted into he- 
lium. Keely was far within bounds ! 

Public interest in the Keely Motor dates from 1874. 
From the first, with the use of no agents but air, water, 
and the machine, its, inventor made pretensions and promises 
that were more extravagant than those of any visionary 
or faker that preceded him. The claim to produce magical 
results by means of a thimbleful of water with appropriate 
juggling was not new, but, as Mr. Benjamin wrote in 1886, 
" a power-creating machine of no known form or mode of 
operation, when based- on notions upset eighty years ago, 
is a wonderful thing. To the confusion of the skeptics, 
the Keely motor is here, that is, not here but to be here 
three weeks hence. It has been going to be here three 
weeks hence for twelve years." (" The Persistence of the 
Keely Motor," by Park Benjamin, The Forum for June 
1886.) He ascribes the persistence of this delusion to 
sheer psychological perversity in that portion of the public 
that hesitates to put any limit to the possibilities of science, 



PERPETUAL MOTION 95 

as it understands the term science. The New Science Re- 
view for April 1895, nine years later, has an article dis- 
cussing fhe action of the motor, entitled " The Operation of 
the Vibratory Circuit," by Mr. Keely himself, that is an 
almost incredible jumble of terms. He anchored his anal- 
ysis of nature to a fundamental " trinity." Every force 
and practically everything else was " triune." For him 
the sacred number was not seven but three. 

The basic idea of Keely's theory was that if one could 
catch and impose upon matter, by sympathetic vibration, 
the extremely rapid vibration that characterizes every atom 
and molecule, then, by the resonance of atoms, he could 
effect a recombination that would liberate an incalculable 
amount of energy. At the time of these experiments radio- 
activity and the highly radioactive substances were not 
known; radio-telegraphy and radio-telephony had not 
dawned upon us and yet, how near each other wisdom and 
folly may sit! Keely's pretensions appear to have antici- 
pated the very phenomena and powers now associated with 
radioactivity and wireless signaling; and when we consider 
the discussions and revelations of atomic energy coming as 
genuine science within the last two or three years, these seem 
like an Alpine glow of which he had some glimmering, upon 
inaccessible peaks which he vainly strove to reach ; but again, 
when we recollect that within a week of the close of the year 
1920, a Leipsic engineer fooled many savants by fraudulent 
claim to have discovered a way to " liberate " (Keely's own 
word) and yet control that same atomic energy, we can see 
what an easy path to notoriety the charlatan finds along such 
lines. 

It was not until after Keely's death that the fraudulent 
nature of his scheme was established. It was then brought 
out by an examination of his laboratory after the motor 
had been removed, and it was found that the extraordinary 
performances of his complicated machinery were controlled 



96 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

from a cellar in which a source of motive power was oper- 
ated. This source of power was not actually identified but 
pipes and connections seemed to indicate pretty plainly that 
it was compressed air, which could be manipulated by the 
demonstrator in the laboratory. Yet his real secret has 
never been revealed. The motor was taken to Boston and 
set up, but it failed to exhibit any " etheric force " when 
subjected to any vibratory influence, after its removal from 
the laboratory in Philadelphia. For a period of more than 
twenty-five years did this remarkable trickster not only 
keep his chicanery hidden but escaped the discovery that 
his pretensions really were impostures, and this in the face 
of experts and others who witnessed tests of his machine. 
Many an untrained witness was astounded by " ocular " 
evidence, and to such an one the doubting smile of one 
who had not " seen " was irritating, to say the least. 

Perpetual motion continues to be achieved, but the " work- 
ing model " does not appear. The machine is set going, 
soon comes to a stop, and consistently refuses to operate 
without help, a failure the souvenir of a delusion of 
no more use than the Hitlerite's ascension robe after the 
twenty-second of October, 1844. 

REFERENCES. 

Perpetuum Mobile. Henry Dircks, London. 

The Mechanics' Magazine, London. 

Life of Robert Fulton, by C. D. Colden, New York, 1817. 

The Century of Inventions of the Marquis of Worcester, 1663. 

Mathematicall Magick, or the Wonders that may be produced 

of Mechanical Geometry, by J. Wilkins, late L d B p of 

Chester, London, 1691. 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 

" For fools rush in where angels fear to tread." 
Pope, Essay on Criticism, Part III. 

Among scientific controversialists are some who, not con- 
tent with the refutation of a single law, are ambitious to 
demolish an entire set of principles or laws connecting 
many physical phenomena as, e.g., the wave theory of light 
or of sound. Their contention may arise from an idea that 
the usual theory is insufficient or from an ingenuity in de- 
vising some other theory that could replace it; but there 
are some who seem to have an inborn feeling of revolt 
against the necessity of complying with any distinct for- 
mula ; who are as anarchistic as the most rabid political rev- 
olutionist. In any case there is a kink in their mental 
structure. These are not the workers, the patient investi- 
gators who are seeking to enlarge the boundaries of knowl- 
edge, and who are not deterred from exploring if their 
path seems to take them beyond known limits, or if the 
view which they get from exceptional heights reveals new 
facts that modify previous conceptions ; rather, the objectors 
want to upset the law because it is the law, or else because 
it stands in the way of some pet notion to which they have 
committed themselves. Attempts to refute the second law 
of thermodynamics are described in connection with per- 
petual motion, and the liquefaction of air. (See pp. 89, 90.) 

It is not uncommon for objectors to offer prizes for prov- 
ing them to be in error, but these prizes are never awarded. 

A 

NEWTON'S THEORY OF GRAVITATION 
With the exception, possibly, of the broad doctrine of 
evolution, no scientific theory has been promulgated in two 

97 



98 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

hundred years that is so far-reaching in its import, so com- 
prehensive in its scope, and so satisfactory in its applica- 
tion, as the Newtonian theory of gravitation ; and none has 
undergone so great an amount of (supposed) demolishing. 
Attacks upon this theory have never been lacking from 
the day it was launched to the recent exposition of Einstein's 
theory of relativity, one phase of which relates to gravi- 
tation. Before considering the attacks it may be well to 
see just what Newton's position was, and what his theories 
signified, something which his critics have not always been 
careful to do ; on the contrary, some of them seem not to have 
read Newton at all. Nor have they always remembered that 
his theories crystallized out of notions that had gained 
recognition and were in a cloudy state of solution. Prior 
to Newton's time the idea was general that all the parts 
of a body " tended " toward a common point within the 
body; that all parts of the earth, including bodies upon 
the earth, tended toward a point (the center) within the 
earth ; that all bodies in the universe tended toward a center 
which, in the Ptolemaic astronomy, was in the earth; the 
Copernican theory regarded the sun and planets as a com- 
plete (solar) system, whose center was the center of the 
sun, toward which all bodies of the system tended; this 
theory was merely one in a series of scientific revolutions 
for it must not be forgotten that the establishing of the 
Copernican system demanded the overturning of the 
Ptolemaic which, hi its beginning, had displaced the ideas 
of cosmogony taught by Aristotle and the early Greek 
philosophers. The Copernican theory was by no means 
generally accepted, even after the lapse of a hundred years 
from its announcement. 

Although in this new theory the planets tended toward 
the sun, they did not go to it; according to Kepler's de- 
ductions it seemed that the planets traveled around the sun 
in elliptical paths, and the whole Copernican scheme of 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 9$ 

astronomy called for an explanation of the peculiar relations 
or interactions of the heavenly bodies, in consequence of 
whicH they continued in those orbits, around the sun and 
among themselves. Here is where Newton's work came in. 
A writer of the history of physics says 

" Long before (Newton) the weight of terrestrial bodies had 
been explained by the combined action of all parts of the earth, 
and this action had been extended to the moon, but the conception 
of gravity as an effort of like substances to unite, still left a sharp 
distinction between terrestrial gravity even if extended to the moon 
(which was assumed to be of the same nature as the earth), and a 
possible force of attraction of the sun for the planets." (Rosenberger, 
GesMchte der Physik; Band I, Theil II, s. 223.) 

Newton's theory of gravitation is comprised in his great 
work The Principia (published in 1687), although this work 
has almost nothing to say of the ultimate nature of gravity. 
With most of his critics the bogy is attraction. Coming 
at more than one-third of the distance through thtPrincipia 
Bk. I, Prop. LXIX discusses the absolute force of bodies 
in a system " if any of those bodies ' attract ' all the rest " 
and the theorem is followed by a scholium containing this 
explanatory remark: "I here use the word attraction in 
general for any endeavour, of what kind soever, made by 
bodies to approach to each other; whether that endeavour 
arise from the action of the bodies themselves, as tending 
mutually to or agitating each other by spirits emitted; or 
whether it arises from the action of the aether or of the 
air, or of any medium whatsoever, whether corporeal or in- 
incorporeal, anyhow impelling bodies placed therein towards 
each other." From here on the word attraction is used oc- 
casionally without further qualification, but always in dis- 
cussing the consequences that would follow if such attrac- 
tion existed. Newton so continually and persistently used 
the phrases " force of gravitation," " gravity of bodies," 



100 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

" bodies gravitate," etc, that it seems as if he were scrupul- 
ously avoiding the term " attraction." * 

Newton's critics have usually taken " attract " in its strict 
sense, or have given it a meaning which they thought it 
ought to have, and have either missed or ignored the fact 
that Newton thus explicitly qualified his use of the term, 
and that he not only did not suppose matter to be endowed 
with an inherent power to attract in the narrow sense, but 
disavowed the idea. 

The Principia is devoted to the investigation of the direc- 
tion and magnitude of the force that would give to a body 
a specified motion or specified path, or else to a considera- 
tion of the motion or path that would ensue if the force 
were of a specified sort; and it all results in the conclu- 
sion that those motions, paths, and forces are such as would 
follow if matter attracted ; or, bodies act as if " every 
particle of matter attracts every other particle with a force 
that is directly proportional to the masses of the particles, 
and inversely proportional to the square of the distance be- 
tween them," and this is the Newtonian law of universal 
gravitation. Gravitation itself is that tendency of bodies 
to come together under a force that is determined by the 
amount of matter in the bodies, called their mass, and not 
by any quality or condition of that matter, as solid or liquid, 
hard or soft, hot or cold, magnetized, electrified, moving, 
or at rest. Prop. V of Bk. Ill has this Scholium : " The 
force which retains the celestial bodies in their orbits has 
been hitherto called centripetal force; but it being now made 
plain that it can be no other than a gravitating force, we 
shall hereafter call it gravity/' 

Newton did not undertake to tell how bodies manage to 
bring about the phenomena of gravitation. Numerous at- 
tempts to do this have been made by others, their ex- 

*See the Bulletin of The Aeronautical Society, July 10, 1913, 
"Theories and Phenomena of Gravitation," by Daniel W. Hering. 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 101 

planation, in most cases, being not in contradiction to the 
theory as Newton presents it, but in accord with it. The 
popular story, which is probably a fable like that of George 
Washington and his hatchet, is to the effect that Newton 
was seated in his garden at Woolsthorpe, pondering (dozing 
perhaps), when his attention was caught by an apple as it 
detached itself from its stem. It fell downward. Bits of 
paper fluttered uncertainly in the air, smoke and dust as- 
cended, downy feathers floated upward and away, should 
not the apple do likewise? But no, like an arrow to its 
mark, the apple came straight to earth. If, instead of fall- 
ing, it had sailed aloft into the empyrean it would have been 
astonishing but not a whit more mysterious than its fall to 
the ground and that is what kept Newton thinking. Of 
the " Paradoxes " mentioned in the Introduction of this 
work, pp. 12, 13, at least six attack Newton's ideas of gravi- 
tation directly or indirectly. The direct assaults are mostly 
flighty or incoherent; the indirect are commonly implied 
in the course of a substitute theory which sometimes takes 
the form of an attempt to explain the nature of gravitation 
or the mechanics of it. Some scholars have even made use 
of the idea of general repulsion instead of attraction. The 
rambling, ill-digested criticisms are often a part of an exten- 
sive plan of their authors to formulate a complete cosmogony 
which shall account for everything in heaven and earth 
and some do not even stop there. 

One of the earliest and most celebrated of explanations 
accepting the Newtonian theory as correct is that of the 
Swiss mathematician and physicist George Louis LeSage 
(1728-1803). At the time of Newton and for more than 
a century after, the corpuscular theory of heat and light 
prevailed. LeSage endeavored to show that the atomic 
theory of the universe, traced back to Epicurus as expounded 
by Lucretius, and still earlier to Democritus, would suffice 
to account for all physical forces; that ultramundane mi- 
8 



102 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

nute particles which he called gravity corpuscles, to distin- 
guish them from those of light and heat, streaming through 
space in all directions would, by impinging upon bodies, pro- 
duce the phenomena of gravitation to accord with the Newto- 
nian law, the bodies themselves acting as screens or barriers. 
His memoir, which he entitled " Lucrece Newtonien/' is 
one of the most remarkable in the history of science, and 
is of interest, not only for its subject matter but also for the 
adroitness with which it made its claim to consideration. 
At the time of its appearance (1782), ideas of physical 
science that did not directly connect with older philosophy 
were taboo in the world of scholars, and were dismissed 
with scant courtesy ; so he opens his work thus : 

"I propose to show that if the first Epicureans had only had 
as sound ideas concerning cosmography as some of their contem- 
poraries to whom they neglected to pay attention, and if they had 
known only a portion of the facts of Geometry that were already 
of common knowledge, they would, very probably, have discovered 
without effort, the laws of universal gravitation and its mechanical 
cause. Laws, of which the formulation and demonstration are the 
greatest glory of the mightiest genius that has ever existed; and 
Cause which, after having long constituted the ambition of the 
greatest physicists, is today the despair of their Successors."* 

He did show elaborately that if the motion of the myriad 
atoms of matter in space were all directed to the center of 
the earth regarded as a sphere instead of a flat figure, so 
that the earth were hailed upon by them on all sides, the 
gravitative action of the earth and moon, as also the tides, 
could be explained by the impact of the atoms and the 
mutual screening effect of the earth and the moon; and 
finally that the gravitation of the entire solar system, or 
of any system, might, in the same way, be accounted for 
by assuming that through every point in space streams of 
atoms pass in all directions. 

This early and celebrated explanation of gravitation has 
* Lucrece Newtonien, par G. L. LeSage, Berlin, 1784. 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 103 

been threshed over and modified by various philosophers and 
physicists, and besides those who have followed this line as 
the clue to the action of gravity, some have resorted to 
wave motion, longitudinal as well as transverse, in the 
ether as a fluid ; and others, a stress in the ether as an elastic 
solid. Electric attraction and repulsion and, later, elec- 
trodynamics were made use of. Recently (1917), Pro- 
fessor T. J. J. See, of Mare Island, California, has for- 
mulated a theory that commands attention, of electro- 
dynamic waves so acting as to produce a tension in the 
medium between two bodies and an increase of pressure 
beyond them. Besides the explanations and theories from 
English and American scholars, the continent of Europe 
was prolific in supplying them, and Australia and New 
Zealand did not fail to furnish their quota. 

These all aim to account for the action of gravity as 
Newton formulated it, and at the same time, some of the 
electrical explanations give a possibility of accounting for a 
departure from the Newtonian law on account of the motion 
of bodies. That contingency appears to be the only quali- 
fication of the theory that has yet seemed really necessary, 
although the objectors to the law do harry its supporters 
because it indicates an infinite force when two bodies are 
brought into actual contact, or the distance between them 
is zero. 

We are especially concerned here with efforts to con- 
trovert or to displace the Newtonian theory of gravitation, 
and still more particularly with those of a fantastic char- 
acter. The acceptance of a theory is always tentative, until 
it has undergone rigid tests successfully. Newton's theo- 
ries had to run the gauntlet of objection, close scrutiny, and 
harsh criticism, especially from his contemporaries and early 
successors, as do all innovations that do not promise im- 
mediate advantage to everybody concerned with them, but 
so well did his theory of universal gravitation serve that, 



104 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

besides removing former difficulties in respect to the known 
bodies of the solar system, the deviation of some of those 
very bodies from the paths or positions which the 'theory 
expected of them led to the discovery of unknown but 
perturbing bodies, through the application of this theory; 
bodies which, when discovered, gave further confirmation 
of it ; and yet, this theory might not have risen to the dignity 
of anything more than a speculation, if the solar system 
under the Copernican astronomy had not afforded a test 
for it on a transcendent scale. 

Yet splendidly as the sciences of astronomy and physics 
grew under Newton's theory of gravitation, there has always 
been an undercurrent of questioning and a threat of re- 
action. It has such a tone of finality, it is so very general 
and at the same time so unequivocal, that it cannot but raise 
the question whether it is flawless. 

A hundred years ago it had become so firmly established 
and was so generally accepted as a basic fact that to dis- 
pute it was sacrilege ; by the middle of the nineteenth century 
the law of universal gravitation had become a household 
word in the vocabulary of physical science and yet, within 
the last hundred years, and particularly within the last 
quarter of that period, it has been called upon repeatedly 
to justify its demand for acceptance. 

A physical proof of the law of gravitation that would 
be undeniable is not possible unless we can test it with 
bodies whose mass is extremely large or extremely minute, 
at distances extremely great as well as extremely small, 
and moving with relative velocities of any value from zero 
to that of light. If we are satisfied of its correctness for 
interplanetary distances, we cannot be certain that it holds 
for the short distances that separate molecules ; if it satisfies 
our tests with small bodies like Cavendish's lead spheres, 
we have yet to find a way to test it with two bodies like the 
sun; and because a velocity of a few miles a minute causes 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 105 

no appreciable departure from the law, that is a very limited 
speed from which to generalize broadly. More than one 
supposed law has succumbed to tests made under more rigid 
conditions than were practicable when the law was an- 
nounced. We cannot take as a proof of the law of gravi- 
tation, however, the fact that it applies to the planets ex- 
actly as to their mass as well as to their distance and move- 
ment, when the value of the mass that is ascribed to them 
is obtained in the first place by assuming the law to be true, 
and computing what mass of a planet would make it con- 
form to that law. Newton's law has been found good within 
the limits of our ability to test it, and that it fails beyond 
those limits remains to be shown. 

I 

In 1897, Stephen H. Emmens, he of the Argentaurum 
Papers mentioned in connection with the transmutation of 
metals (pp. 66-69), produced a volume of about one hun- 
dred and fifty octavo pages entitled " Argentaurum Papers, 
No. i. Some Remarks Concerning Gravitation. Addressed 
to The Smithsonian Institution, The Academic des Sciences, 
The Royal Society, and all other learned bodies" Mr. 
Emmens supports his claim to attention by an official con- 
nection with numerous engineering and scientific societies, 
as founder, member, fellow, or what not. In this book he 
takes exception to Newton's statements, his demonstrations, 
and his conclusions. His own demonstrations are not con- 
vincing; they give the impression of forensic smartness 
rather than sound reasoning, and keep one continually on 
the alert to detect some trick. Having exposed Newton's 
mistakes, he outlines a system of universal physics by pos- 
tulating seven definitions and four laws, the most of which 
conform to generally accepted views, and by means of 
which a simple formula for the force of gravity is obtained, 



106 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

that provides for the discrepancy in the Newtonian theory, 
as regards minute distance. He adds a protest against the 
tactics of silence on the part of scholars who ought to meet 
his arguments. 

Although his book is a much more creditable work than 
most attempts to reach the same goal, many of which are 
incoherent or scatter-brained, it was virtually still-born. 

II 

Robert Stevenson, a Scotch engineer (now of New York), 
of good training and large experience, approaches the sub- 
ject from a different direction. He discards the idea of 
gravitation altogether ; asserts that the apparent fall of bodies 
to the earth is not due to attraction or to a force of any 
kind, centripetal or gravitational; that their falling is not 
even a fact, but an illusion, just as is the apparent daily 
movement of the sun from the eastern to the western hori- 
zon; and that the phenomena ascribed to gravitation may 
all be accounted for by the motion of bodies, arising from 
other causes, and are in accord with a kinetic theory which 
he has devised for elasticity in matter. Of course that 
involves contradiction of other generally accepted notions, 
especially in the science of mechanics. 

The following illustration of this paradox in its most 
elementary form can be easily followed, but in carrying 
it farther it soon -runs into abstruse and difficult mathe- 
matics. 

STEVENSON'S EXPLANATION OF THE APPARENT FALL OF A 

BODY TO THE EARTH 

In the figure, the earth is represented in several posi- 
tions, as at C, C' t C", moving in its orbit around the sun 
at approximately eighteen miles per second. At a point 
F, a body is projected upward with a velocity of, say, thirty- 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 107 

two feet per second, represented by Pa. This upward 
motion combined with the earth's orbital motion gives the 
body a resultant motion in the direction PP" along which 




it travels in a straight line with uniform velocity. As the 
body and the earth move on, they part company until, at 
the end of one second, the earth is at C' and the body at 
//, a height above the earth equal to P'H. One second 
later the earth has reached C" where it has a velocity in 
the direction bP" of thirty-two feet per second, and en- 
counters the body, which apparently has ascended from the 
earth to the height P'H in the first second, and apparently 
fallen back to strike the earth at P" at the end of the next 
second, and gravity had nothing to do with it. 

There is apt to be some sort of special pleading in at- 
tempts to disprove established laws. When Mr. Stevenson 
shows that a body does not fall to the earth, his demon- 
stration assumes some body to be moving in a circle about 
a center in this case the earth moving around the sun 



108 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

but ignores the fact (or else denies it) that a body will not 
so move unless it is impelled toward the center by some 
extraneous action. He repudiates the fact of inertia and 
the first law of motion ; and that is why, as he says, " my 
old professors, Lord Kelvin and Blackburn, wrote me that 
I would first have to prove that Newton's first law of 
motion was a fallacy, and that Galileo and Newton were 
fools in believing that they were experimenting with fall- 
ing bodies at the earth's surface." He implies that a change 
of motion in a body (not the apparently falling body but 
the earth itself) does not require that a force be impressed 
upon it. In steering clear of the Scylla of the falling body 
he encounters the Charybdis of the earth's curvilinear 
motion in its orbit. Without gravity causing the body to 
fall to the earth, there is nothing to account for the orbital 
movement of the earth to meet the apparently falling body. 

Ill 

In the eighteen-eighties and nineties a propaganda of 
" Substantialism " was conducted by A. Wilford Hall, of 
New York. Rejecting the idea of an ether in space, he 
considers the force of gravity, like all manifestations of 
physics, to be of a " substantial " character. He assembles 
a series of discussions in a large volume entitled The Prob- 
lem, of Human Life, and with a keen wit, a caustic pen, 
and trenchant style, he inveighs bitterly against materialistic 
philosophers and "* modern scientists, especially Darwin, 
Huxley, Haeckel, Tyndall, Helmholtz, and Mayer, and in 
passing, pays his respects to Newton. He flouts the New- 
tonian notion of gravitation utterly. In much of his book 
he essays the poetic and of Newton he says 

" Strange that such a man as Newton, 
When conceiving some connection 
Linking attrahents together 
To account for drawing motion 
Could not think just one step further, 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 109 

Or conceive that gravitation 

Might itself be real substance 

Of invisible formation, 

Chords of force connecting bodies, 

Spun from each corporeal atom, 

While their molecules, like bobbins, 

Reel incessantly these force-threads, 

Till the objects thus united 

Should be fully brought in contact* 

With a Hiawatha lilt he goes loping along in trochaic 
tetrameters, as if nothing were easier than confounding 
such scientific intellectual pigmies. The magazines The 
Scientific Arena and The Microcosm, which he edited as " or- 
gans " of his philosophy, contained many contributions from 
his satellites, who hastened to add their mite of support 
to his attacks, buzzing like flies, in a minor key and often 
befogged as to what they were fighting, and why they were 
fighting it. He reminds one of the preacher who began 
his sermon with the statement " Saint Paul remarks, and I 
partly agree with him," for he is quite of the opinion, with 
Newton, that the gravitative force between two particles 
varies inversely as the square of the distance between them, 
but takes sharp exception to the statement that the action 
upon a body outside of a sphere is the same as if the mass 
of the sphere were concentrated in a single particle at its 
center, and the distance between the bodies were to be a- 
counted as the distance from the center of the sphere; 
and apart from his conception of the nature of gravity, his 
dissent from the Newtonian law hinges entirely upon this. 
His labored effort to demonstrate the truth of his idea shows 
an inability to understand either the mechanics or the mathe- 
matics of the problem and his disproof of the law continu- 
ally exhibits a misconception or a misstatement of Newton, 
and his would-be corrections of the great philosopher are 
accordingly worthless. 

* The Problem of Human Life, p. 68, ad ed., 1877. In later 
editions, the portions in poetic form were recast in prose. 



110 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

IV 

A disputant who had devised various inventions, and 
had submitted to various governments submarine and aero- 
nautical projects that he considered important, endeavored 
in 1898 to enlist the interest of the author in a disproof 
of Newton's theories, both of light and gravitation. He 
called his paper " The new revised edition Criticism on 
Gravitation." A few extracts from the prologue, as it might 
be termed, read as follows : 

" The light's attributes the warmth's electromagnetism will to my 
confidence be found as the motor of the vital activity of the Universe. 

Criticism of the 'power of the gravitation* as the motor of the 
vital activity, in the scientific acknowledgement as accepted up to 
the day. 

" When Isaac Newton a universal genius of the scientific cognition, 
founded through his philosophical, mathematical doctrines the spiritual 
course of the astrophysical disciplines to all future days, but at the 
early days of knowledge, the light and its attributes in scientific 
darkness when gravitation was substituted as the motor of the vital 
activity, a praise of his days still more as Newton himself at later 
days, found it problematical. (Prefais 2nd Ed. of his Optic). 

" But the retain of the gravitation of our days, in spite of the 
advancements of the cognition of all dominions of the vital actuality, 
to be considert as an reproch of dogmatical remaining of the-Exact- 
Knowledge, as a loss of the leadership-elaboration of unlimided 
fields : " 

Then the core of his thesis : 

" The gravity can only be accepted a passive attributes of the 
matter. 

" When in the contrary the attraction derived of the adhesivity in 
the sentenced supposition as an active motor will be found an 
imagination. 

" The adhesivity will be found associated with the cohesivity, an 
affinitation singularity and equal of the pulsation, assimilation, 
molecularisation and also the rotation but not as the cause of the 
vital activity only the consequence of the spiritual singular and of 
all probability, the light's attributes, the warmth's electromagnetism 
will be found as the motor of the vital activity the consequence of 
organical perfection." 

Signed, 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES HI 

Now queer jumble as it is, that is not really as bad as 
it looks, and not nearly as bad as it sounds. Its author 
had very imperfect command of English, and could express 
himself in that language only with difficulty. His vernac- 
ular was German, and his statement bristles with German 
idioms. Of the forty- four " the's " in the portion quoted, 
twenty-one are superfluous in English, though quite admis- 
sible in German. The ideas in the paper are obscure, but 
by heeding its idiomatic form of expression it could be trans- 
lated into fairly lucid English. 

In an interview at the request of Mr. , between him 
and the author of this book, the latter demurred to Mr. 
's strictures upon Newton's theory of attraction, and on 
assuring him that Newton had not said that one body 
actually " attracted " another, he became indignant, and 
warmly declared that the author had " not the slightest 
understanding of the fundamental principles of mechanics 
let alone gravity ! " The interview was not particularly 
profitable to either party. 

V 

Tilting in this tournament comes a knight of the labora- 
tory and the machine shop, Benny Bernstein, who is still 
more vigorous, not to say violent, in expression; a clever 
mechanic and an exceedingly ingenious inventor, with nu- 
merous useful devices to his credit. In an advertising cir- 
cular he declares himself ready to maintain against all 
comers the thesis that " Planetary Motion is oscillation by 
resistance, and creates a positive or automatic, continuous, 
complete curve motion against resistance that is a corrup- 
taction or motion, therefore everything on planets acts and 
moves corruptly, viz, dinamic and hydrastatic." Dispute 
it who dares, deny it who will, understand it who can! 
We need consider here only his f ulminations against Newton 
and gravity; and first, he may most properly speak for 



112 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

himself. In a circular (issued 1895), announcing a " Fourth 
and last letter to Smithsonian Institution, to British Associa- 
ation and Mr. Robert Stevenson," he jeers at Kepler for 
holding the idea that the moon would draw the waters of 
the earth to it if the earth ceased to attract them, and adds 

"Isaac Newton, the greatest Scientific Humbug, crowned this 
great falsity by discovering its connection, viz. ' An invisible point 
in the centre of dead matter exerts an attractive stress on all the 
rest of the Universe, directly proportional to the multiplication of 
the masses/ which means that five masses multiplied by five masses is 
twenty-five masses, and the force of attraction increases in that 
ratio. Impossible and nonsense." 

In reply to a somewhat derogatory statement in a Glas- 
gow journal he says: 

" I do not intend to substitute Sir Isaac Newton's theory (central 
attraction) with a theory. I merely say a fact " (stating a proposition 
of balanced or unbalanced mechanical action), "and whoever does 
not want to believe it does not need to." 

But he immediately adds 

11 My theory is: The universal vacuum (a black flexible fluid or 
pressure) displaced through a revolving globe of weight, area and 
dimension forms into striking funnel-shaped outward (curved) cur- 
rents from all around the globe thereby; naturally the rings (or 
curves) the nearer to the revolving globe the smaller and stronger 
they are, and the further away from the revolving globe the larger 
and weaker they become in the universal vacuum, and therefore it 
must follow that a bulk thrown into such forms the heavier it is 
the deeper and further it must fall into the focus until it strikes 
the proportionate extending and expanding resistance of the focus in 
the universal vacuum as to its own proportionate (extending, expand- 
ing and the falling weight and thereby an equalized power a zero for 
the zero) for the resistance it produced and the local equilibrium of 
the bulk as to its weight, area and dimension must find itself then, 
even to a pound and this is reciprocal power." 

What can he possibly mean? 

It may all be clear to its author but it certainly needs 
an interpreter for ordinary comprehension. 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 113 

VI 

In the prospectuses of the fourth and fifth " Paradoxes " 
mentioned in the Introduction (p. 12), Solomon J. Silber- 
stein of New York declares that 

" The planetary motions and of the falling bodies are not due to 
the law of ' gravitation ' which nature does not know. . . . The same 
is the case with the law of * inertia ' which nature does not know. 

" The fundamental law in natural philosophy is the law of gravita- 
tion, discovered by Sir Isaac Newton, about two centuries ago, .... 
I am bold enough to assert, that there never was such a force as 
the force of attraction; that all the laws deducted from this law of 
gravitation are utterly without foundation, etc." 

Our principal excuse for presenting these extracts from 
Mr. Silberstein's papers is the fact that the distinguished 
Professors James and Royce, of Harvard University, gave 
his work a quasi-endorsement. The list of objections might 
be much extended but these examples show their general 
character. 

The Newtonian law has been assailed upon every point 
in its statement. We see Benny Bernstein fuming over 
the idea that the combined effect of two masses is to be 
measured by the product of the masses instead of their 
sum that the gravitation of two masses of five pounds 
could possibly be twenty-five pounds instead of ten pounds ; 
Dr. Emmens takes exception to the idea of the inverse 
square of the distance, since, with two bodies in contact, 
at the point of contact there is no distance between the 
particles, and the force uniting those particles would be 
infinite disregarding the fact that when carried to such an 
extreme of mathematical definiteness, the matter that would 
be mathematically at zero distance would also be nothing 
in amount; Mr. Stevenson denies the fact of gravitative 
action at all. 

As individual protests these would not go very far, but 
they are merely examples of types of objection, each of 



114 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

which types has its advocates, and the objections are varied 
and voluminous. In manner some of the disputants are 
suave, silky, penetrating; some are fussy, boisterous, and 
dogmatic; still others are polemic, delighting in argument 
for argument's sake and enjoying the thrust and parry of 
such fencing whenever they can nag any one into taking 
up the foils with them. 

The Scotchman Newton's error shows 
And wields his broad claymore; 
The Teuton's heavy hammer-blows 
Reveal the wrath of Thor; 
Columbia's knights with lighter touch 
Employ the keen rapier, 
And Benny Bernstein "beats the Dutch" 
To make confusion clear. 

Or, as one of his contemporaries says of the last named 
challenger, 

Not his the role of Ivanhoe 
With courtly grace to joust, 
Or, granting favor to his foe, 
With sword and lance to thrust; 
Resembling rather Front de Boeuf, 
In battle axe his trust, 
He charges madly down the lists 
And shouts "Pike's Peak or bust!" 

What, then, is the net result of the assaults upon this 
stronghold of modern science? It has not yet capitulated; 
the citadel has not fallen ; the walls have not been breached ; 
at most only the outer barriers have been jostled. Like any 
and every scientific hypothesis, this of gravitation may some 
day be superseded, but whether the law is to stand or fall, 
whether it shall be modified, and if so in what way and to 
what extent, will be determined by the additions that shall 
be made to our knowledge, not only of the action of bodies 
toward one another directly, but the effect of conditions 
of every sort which may influence them indirectly. Within 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 115 

a very few years past, ideas have been injected into our 
former conception of atoms, which call for the revision 
of either the law of gravitation or the statement that the 
mass of a body is invariable at any rate in the case of 
very small particles moving with great velocity. We have 
supposed that the mass meant the quantity of matter, and 
that that would not be different whether the body was 
at rest or in motion, was in the light or in the dark, was 
magnetized or electrified or heated or cooled. But we 
have had no means of deciding whether one body has greater 
mass than another of a different kind, or has more itself 
at one time than at another, except by seeing whether the 
same force affects the motion of one more than another. 
With bodies of appreciable size and moving with moderate 
speeds, the law of masses holds good, and the state of 
motion makes no perceptible difference. 

Now it is found that electrons, those ultra-minute cor- 
puscles, small even as compared with the atom, when flow- 
ing in streams through a field of, say, magnetic force, are 
swayed by such force or diverted in their path. This 
deviation varies if the velocity of the electron is varied, and 
when the principles that are involved are worked out, 
this is found to signify that in relation to the direction 
in which the electron is moving and to the electromagnetic 
force, the mass increases with the velocity; or the mass 
ascribed to the electron when at rest must have a quantity 
added to it to represent the total mass when in motion. The 
former is sometimes called the mechanical mass and the 
latter the electric or the electromagnetic mass. This in- 
crease of mass is not appreciable at velocities less than one 
tenth of the velocity of light, and even when its velocity 
is ninety-nine hundredths of that of light the total value 
of the mass is only about ten times as great as when the 
particle is at rest, but with a velocity equal to that of light 
it becomes infinite. 



116 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

If, now, as some physicists think, matter is wholly elec- 
trical in its nature, this would mean, in our old mechanics, 
that the mass to be ascribed to a body is different when 
at rest from that when in motion, and if the mass is differ- 
ent so would be the gravitative effect of other bodies upon 
it ; either that, or we must think that the mass is not differ- 
ent but that the effect of a given force upon it varies with 
its velocity, which controverts Newton's Laws of Motion. 
In the present state of science, phenomena of radioactiv- 
ity seem to support the idea of variability of the mass, if 
we are to judge of the mass by the effect of a given force. 
Even so, it must be kept in mind that the most exacting 
means to detect the variations spoken of give no indica- 
tions of varying mass in particles or bodies whose velocity 
is not comparable to that of light, say at least one-tenth as 
great ; a speed many times transcending that of the swiftest 
body of which we have any knowledge except those ex- 
tremely minute particles in the corpuscular structure of 
matter itself far smaller than the atom. 

B 
THE WAVE THEORY OF SOUND 

I 

From 1877, for more than a decade a lively attack against 
the wave theory of sound was maintained by A. Wilford 
Hall of New York, whom we have mentioned among the 
assailants of gravitation, writing at first over the pseudonym 
" Wilford." Darwinism was exciting theologians of the 
old school, Haeckel was most disturbing to philosophers 
both natural and moral, and physicists had gone daft over 
various wave theories. Dr. Hall's primary object was to 
establish Substantialism, a philosophic doctrine that was a 
reversion to the earlier corpusclar theories of the so-called 
" imponderables " with modifications ; his especial purpose 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 117 

being to show that life processes and life itself are " sub- 
stantial " but not material in their nature. The scheme 
was an ambitious one and was pushed with vigor and with 




A. Wilford Hall. 

large success. As it bore directly upon various branches 
of physical science we give several paragraphs of the creed. 

The Substantial Philosophy teaches that everything in the universe, 
visible or invisible, tangible or intangible, corporeal or incorporeal, 
of which the mind can form a positive concept, is substance or entity, 
in some form or degree of grossness or attenuation. 

It teaches that the substances of the universe, as above expressed, 
are naturally and rationally divisible into two main departments, 
namely, material and immaterial, which means nearly the same thing 
as corporeal and incorporeal; and that while all matter is substance 
or substantial, it by no means follows that all substance is matter 
or material. The term matter f as thus viewed, only embraces a 
small portion of the substance of the universe, namely, those sub- 
stances which are ponderable or otherwise susceptible of chemical 
or mechanical test, or such as are absolutely limited by material condi- 
tions. 
9 



118 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Substance in its immaterial classification includes every force of 
nature or in nature, physical, vital, mental or spiritual, and includes 
every form of energy which in any way can produce a manifestation 
or motion of a sensuous body. Hence the physical forces which mani- 
fest themselves to our sensuous observation, such as gravity, light, 
heat, sound, electricity magnetism, etc., are as really substantial 
or entitative as the air we breathe, the water we drink, or the food 
that we eat. (The Scientific Arena, June, 1886.) 

The propaganda exerted a wide influence and was wel- 
comed by thousands of people who acclaimed the advent of a 
champion against a group of scientists who, just at that 
time, were promulgating ideas that seemed to them perni- 
cious and subversive of orthodox religious views. The task 
of its founder would be easier if he could show that the ac- 
cepted wave theories of science were erroneous, and the wave 
theory of sound, which was the oldest and had seemed the 
plainest and least open to objection, he chose for his especial 
attention, as being at the same time most vulnerable. As 
it had been accepted with less hesitation than other wave 
theories, its overthrow would contribute more to the erec- 
tion of " substantialism." As organs of his propaganda he 
edited the monthly magazine The Microcosm (1881-1892), 
and The Scientific Arena (1886-1888), to both of which 
he was himself the most prolific contributor. 

He conceded that the " forces " ( including in that term 
not only sound, light, gravitation, electricity, etc., but also 
the agencies causing their manifestation) were themselves 
set in action by a vibration or tremor of the body from 
which they proceeded, but this setting into action he called 
" liberating " not generating the force ; and the immaterial 
substance liberated was not subject to the same limitations 
as material substances. 

As a point of departure from which he proceeded to develop 
his arguments against the wave theory of sound, he fixed 
upon the shrill, strident noise made by the locust. This 
sound could be heard in favorable weather at a distance of 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 119 

a mile or more and, as he put the matter, in the wave theory 
the sphere of air a mile in radius around the locust, a mass 
of millions of tons, was kept in a state of agitation by this 
insect an idea too preposterous to be entertained by any 
sane person. His discussions repeatedly recur to this. The 
" stridulation " of that locust was kept up for twelve years, 
and resounded through ten volumes of The Microcosm, two 
volumes of The Scientific Arena, and several hundred pages 
of The Problem of Human Life. The innocent insect was 
an oriflamme, a beacon that rallied all the forces of sub- 

tn tVi* cunnnrt nf that 




The Locust. 

With the wilful blindness of "those who won't see," 
Wilford persists in the idea that to effect the necessary 
compression of air in the spread of sound waves through- 
out the four cubic miles surrounding the stridulating locust, 
the puny insect must exert a mechanical force of millions 
of tons. When it is pointed out that a pebble, dropped in 
a pond, initiates a wave which travels in an ever-widening 
circle of rising and falling water until it reaches the shore, al- 
though the pebble sank and ceased its action immediately, 
he % triumphantly explains the continued wave movement by 
the continued action of gravity; but he fails to perceive 
that the property of elasticity in a transmitting medium 
performs a similar function with a sound wave. Nor is 
he at all staggered by the wonderful demand that is made 
upon the same long-suffering insect by the " substantial " 
theory, to supply the immaterial substance that must per- 



120 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

meate these four cubic miles of air, that it may be per- 
ceived at every point within that space. 

He offers a crucial argument to demolish the wave theory, 
by which his whole contention shall stand or fall. In this 
he carries his locust proof to the extreme. He assumes 
the entire four cubic miles to be divided into cells or cham- 
bers of a cubic quarter inch each, that space being allotted 
to the presence and action of one tympanic diaphragm or 
membrane which, according to the wave theory, is pushed 
" once in and once out " with every complete vibration or 
wave. With the smallest allowable weight, there are 16,000 
such membranes to a pound, and yet, the enormous number 
of them so spaced in the great sphere of a mile radius 
would amount to two thousand million tons of tympanic 
membrane which this trifling insect, according to the wave 
theory of sound, is capable of throwing into rapid vibratory 
motion by the mechanical operation of moving its legs! 

But lest this reasoning and calculation may be too ab- 
struse, he simplifies it. He supposes the area of a plain, 
extending for a mile in all directions around the locust, 
to be occupied by men as closely as they could stand, say 
8,000 on a half acre, every one of whom would hear the 
strident sound. There would be five thousand pounds of 
tympanic membranes oscillated or bent "once in and once 
out " 440 times a second while the stridulation continued. 
He considers his argument invincible, his calculation based 
on correct mathematical and mechanical principles, and says 

" Unless Professors Tyndall, Helmholtz and Mayer are prepared 
to accept the result, and believe that an insect by the simple move- 
ment of its legs in rasping the nervures of its wings is capable of 
shaking two thousand million tons of physical matter, as heavy and 
as difficult to shake as that much lead, they must of necessity abide 
the only logical consequence, and abandon the wave theory as an 
unspeakable scientific fallacy 1 " * 

* The Problem of Human Life, Second Edition, p. 178. 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 121 

And lo, the boot is on the other foot! It is the accepted 
theory that is the " scientific vagary." 

Much of his objection is old and is easily met by a correct 
appreciation of the action of an elastic medium, the entire 
value of the substantial theory depending not upon whether 
the wave theory accounts for sound phenomena, but whether 
there is any such thing as a sound wave a thing which 
Wilford characterizes as pure assumption. 

Wilford's greatest grievance seemed to be his inability to 
provoke a response from any of the distinguished scientists 
against whom he leveled his guns, though he used his utmost 
endeavors to draw their fire. Physicists commented on his 
statements and sometimes criticized them, but steadfastly 
and uniformly avoided wrangling with him. At the time 
when this propaganda was in full swing, teachers of evolution 
were making that doctrine peculiarly obnoxious to preachers 
of revealed religion, and many of these latter who, for their 
lives, could not tell a sound wave from a papal bull hailed 
with pleasure the advent of an ally who was ready not 
only to do battle for their cause, but who carried the war 
into the enemy's camp and fought him on his own ground. 
The discussion as conducted by Wilford, however, was at 
times quibbling, ex parte, and abusive. Dr. Hall displayed 
a keen relish for the fray of controversy. He was at once 
pugnacious and credulous. He discerned and combated errors 
in the Newtonian theory of gravitation (as he supposed), 
but was easily duped by the Keely motor when he visited 
the inventor's laboratory and witnessed (?) the astounding 
exhibitions of the mysterious force which the motor released. 

II 

Wilford was the Elijah of a doctrine in philosophy, and 
the Elisha upon whom his mantle fell continued the war 
against the wave theory of sound. 

About twelve years ago, Joseph Battell of Middlebury, 



122 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Vermont, published a large work in three volumes entitled 
" Ellen, Or Whisperings Of an Old Pine," in which, in a 
form much like the " Dialogues " of earlier philosophers, 
he embodied an elaborate set of views and opinions on phe- 
nomena of nature. His work is wholly independent of 
Wilford's long sustained effort, and yet is in a high degree 
a repetition of it. The author recast a good deal of " Ellen " 
and issued it in separate form in a work restricted to the 
theory of sound. Like Wilford, he utterly rejects the 
wave theory and resumes the corpuscular theory for all 
manifestations of physical phenomena, but hardly takes the 
trouble to discriminate between material and immaterial 
substance. Like many other propagandists of revolutionary 
doctrines, Mr. Battell offers large prizes for the disproof of 
these which he maintains. Heat, light, magnetism, etc., 
he says, are all matter and are made to be what they are and 
to do what they do by the way in which matter is mixed in 
their composition. It is always " shock or disturbance " that 
causes sound or light in bodies, and at the same time makes 
the bodies emit sound or light. 

Instead of vibration making sound it is sound that makes 
vibration. Sound never vibrates, it makes a straight course 
unless impeded; the sound made by shock in a tuning fork 
is impeded in its flow in the metal, is unable readily to get 
out, therefore, as in the case of echoes, it is constantly 
thrown from side to side, thus producing the vibration. 
After alluding to the revival of the corpuscular theory of 
light, the author of The New Physics says 

" The corpuscular theory of sound must soon follow, when at last 
nature's great system of creation, in which every material thing is 
made through a mixture of matter, will be accepted in its entirety." * 

His theory works out beautifully in telegraphy which is 
an example of corpuscular flow of electricity in the wire, 
* The New Physics. Sound, p. 15. 



THE OVERTURNING OF SCIENTIFIC THEORIES 123 

of magnetism in the electromagnets, and of sound from 
the sounder. The overwhelming character of the new 
physics, so far as sound is concerned, is summed up in a 
very comprehensive assertion: 

" There is not a single phenomenon of Sound that can be ex- 
plained by the undulatory theory. On the other hand there is no 
known phenomenon of Sound that cannot be intelligently and fully 
explained by the corpuscular theory." (The New Physics, p. 33.) 

Rather a cold douche for enthusiasts who, like Sedley 
Taylor, thought of Helmholtz's geat work on the Sensa- 
tions of Tone (Tonempfindungen), that " it does for Acous- 
tics what the Principia of Newton did for Astronomy." 
(Sound and Music, Pref., p. III.) 

In science the question in regard to an accepted theory is 
not so much whether it is absolutely correct, as how long 
it will fit known phenomena better than any other one, and 
that depends upon the progress of scientific discovery. So 
long as there are more ways than one to account for an 
occurrence there will be disputes as to which is the right 
way. The evidences of the rotundity of the earth are not 
convincing to everybody and there still appear, occasionally, 
objectors who are prepared to explain away the proofs of it. 
The Justices of the United States Supreme Court are seldom 
unanimous in their decisions, and juries often fail to agree 
though all the jurors have the same evidence to pass upon. 

REFERENCES 

Bulletin of The Aeronautical Society; Theories and Phenomena 
of Gravitation, by Daniel W. Hering. New York, July 10, 



Die Geschichte der Physik, von Dr. Ferd. Rosenberger, Braun- 

schweig, 1882. 
Lucrece Newtonien, par G. L. LeSage. Mtmoires de L* Academic 

royale des Sciences et Belles Lettres de Berlin pour 1782, 

publics en 1784. 



124 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

The Laws of Gravitation. Edited by A. Stanley Mackenzie, 

Ph.D. No. 9 of the series of Scientific Memoirs edited by 

J. S. Ames, Ph.D. New York, 1899. 
The Problem of Human Life. By A. Wilford Hall, New York, 

1879. 
The New Physics. Sound. By Joseph Battell, Middlebury, Vt., 

1909. 



DIVINATION 

Attempts to connect schemes of divination with physical 
science have not had much success. The practice of ancient 
soothsayers of divining by reference to the flight of birds 
or the entrails of animals, and the incantations of witches 
and the like uncanny exhibitions, were so obviously 
frauds or else superstitious mummery that they cannot be as- 
sociated even remotely with science. In so far as divination 
rests upon laws of science it simply expresses the sequence 
of events that accords with the laws, so that acquaintance 
with the science takes away from the predictions any pro- 
phetic character and does away with the need of the prophet. 
Such, for instance, would be the foretelling of an eclipse 
predetermined from a knowledge of astronomy. The power 
thus to forecast the eclipse had nothing supernatural about 
it to Columbus, but to the savages whom he wished to 
influence it was most impressive. Some systems of divina- 
tion embrace clear rules for interpreting natural occurrences 
and then, by associating natural phenomena directly with 
human experience, the apostles of these systems claim a scien- 
tific character for them. A system based upon astronomical 
phenomena and the position and movement of the heavenly 
bodies may reveal terrestrial fortunes of every sort, whether 
of men or animals, of nations, or of the world itself. That 
is Astrology. If it depends upon the markings of an 
individual as, for example, a hand or a face, the system 
based upon such marking gives character reading and fore- 
casting for that individual only, and we have Chiromancy 
or Palmistry, and Physiognomy. Divining from the con- 
formation of the skull is phrenology. All these schemei 
are highly refined, and the interpretations are made accord- 
ing to rules that express a definite, constant relation between 

125 



126 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

the signs and the things they indicate; and whether such 
relation really exists or is only assumed, the scheme is very 
systematic and its practice is scientific, but instead of building 
the scheme upon relations known to be true, so many of 
the relations have been reasoned out to fit the scheme, or 
else are assumptions pure and simple, that scholars versed 
in the sciences upon which the systems profess to rest 
generally reject them, as being at best pseudo-scientific. 

Other than such forecasting, the multifarious modes of 
divining rest usually upon some subjective quality of the 
prophet, even though he claims to be only the "medium" 
through which a superior power is speaking. It is this 
psychic class of phenomena that, for the last century, has 
got enough hold upon scientific philosophers to lead them 
into spiritualism. Unquestionably this is the broadest of 
all fields for fraud and superstition, and in the nineteenth 
century the world saw an amazing display of both, in the 
forms of catalepsy or trance, hypnotism, mesmerism, clair- 
voyance, spiritualism, end-of-the-world prophecies, and 
Utopian schemes of society. 

One of the most remarkable things about the practice 
of divination is the belief which the prophets themselves 
have in their systems of divining, or which they acquire 
if they are half skeptical in the beginning. An occasional 
lucky hit startles them into believing in their own practice 
because they cannot explain their success. That many of 
them are sincere is beyond question though there is no doubt 
that many have been fully conscious of their hypocrisy; 
and as the source of their uncanny powers there is always the 
Devil as a dernier ressort. 

THE DIVINING ROD 

When a farmer wants to sink a well, he usually casts 
about for a professional to tell him where to dig that he 
may be certain of striking a vein of water at a moderate 



DIVINATION 127 

depth. Everybody, at least in rural communities, has heard 
of the practice of locating underground streams of water 
by means of a forked twig which, in the hands of a gifted 
carrier, points to such streams with unerring accuracy, and 
there are few communities that do not boast of at least 
one such practitioner. It is not so commonly known, however, 
that in earlier times the same means was employed to locate 
subterranean minerals and to find lost or hidden articles, 
and even to discover and detect criminals. The twig is 
known in English as a " divining rod " (Lat. Virgula divina; 
( jer. Wiinschelruthe, Schlagrut ; Fr. la baguette divinatoire ; 
Eng. divining rod, dowsing rod). The person using it is 
often called a " dowser" ; sometimes the terms water-witch 
and water-witching are used. In its most common form the 
divining rod is a forked twig or branch of apple or willow 
or hazel presumably witchhazcl would be most appropriate. 



6" >|c~ 6 ->! 




Willow Divining Rod. 



With the rod in position, the dowser walks around over the 
land in which he is endeavoring to locate, say, a subterranean 
vein of water, and when he passes over such a vein the rod 
indicates the fact by turning in his hands and pointing 
downwards. Let the operator restore it to its upright 
position and again and again it will persist in turning and 



128 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



pointing downwards. If he moves away and the rod is 
temporarily quiescent, it again becomes agitated and turns 
down whenever he crosses the vein of water. The twig 
may be carried pointing out horizontally or at an angle if 
only the proper relative position of the hands and branches 
is maintained. In fact it is commonly held in an inclined 
position between the horizontal and the vertical, as in the 
photograph. The disbeliever is inclined to ridicule the per- 



m 






Sylvanus J. Busby locating underground 
water at Whitingham. 

formance, but as a method of divining it is a real cult, and 
to its disciples it is no joke. In awe-inspiring language, a 
German writer describes the performance of the dowser, 
and the tense moment of revelation thus : 

Cautiously feeling his way he walks up and down the terrain to be 
explored. His elbows are pressed firmly against his body, the fore 



DIVINATION 129 

arm thrust straight out in front of him, the hands, palm upward, 
clenched tightly around the forked twig which, in an inclined position, 
points forward. As if possessed of feeling it seems to stride on in 
front of the man. 

Then suddenly the fork sinks. All efforts of the bearer to hold 
it fast are in vain, and from the lips of our seeker fall laconically the 
words " There is water." * 

There is nothing dubious or hesitating in the movement of 
the twig; when it turns it turns suddenly and vigorously 
and the stiffer the twig the more vigorous its action. The 
skeptical do not consider this action mysterious although 
they do not usually wish to accuse the demonstrators of 
conscious fraud. As we shall see later, the mystery, which 
has been a cloud to the doubters and a halo to the believers, 
is itself mythical. 

Professor Barrett ascribes the term " dowse/' and from 
that " dowser " and " dowsing," to Cornish coal miners on 
their return from working in mines in Saxony. In that 
country the forked twig was used to locate coal deposits, 
and was called a " Schlagruth" (Eng. a striking-rod). The 
dialectic Cornish term for strike or hit was " dowse," which 
still survives among their sailors who "dowse the sail," 
and in America sailors sometimes say " dowse the glim " 
for put out the light. 

Andrew Lang sees an outcropping of the popular ac- 
quaintance with the use of the twig in the English collo- 
quialism " I twig your meaning." 

The possibilities of the performance as a fun-maker were 
not lost upon Sir Walter Scott. In " The Antiquary " he 
makes game of the Westphalian parasite Douster swivel 
(not to say Dowserdrivel), who finds water for a band of 
picnickers by means of the divining rod, amid ironical 
comments and satirical approbation of the rest of the com- 
pany. 

* From the Introduction to von Klinckowstroem's Bibliographie der 
Wunschelrute, by Dr. Edward Aigner. 

10 



130 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

The practice is very old and uncertain of origin. The 
earliest recorded use of a wand in discovering subterranean 
or concealed articles is ascribed to Abaris. He was one of 
those mythical characters that are only seen through clouds 
of doubt and uncertainty, and around whose names cluster 
fables and legends with an occasional scrap of what appears 
to be genuine history, that are often interesting and sometimes 
remarkable. He was reputed to be a Scythian living about 
500 B. C. He traveled extensively, carrying or carried by 
an arrow, and performed wonderful acts of divining by its 
use, so that he was styled "a walking oracle." His arrow 
has been likened to the traditional broomstick whereon 
witches rode to their nocturnal meetings. An elaborate 
account of Abaris and his doings, including a comparison of 
his arrow with the later divining rod, is given in Bayle's 
Dictionary. 

In recent times investigation of this subject has been taken 
over by psychic societies, as that seems to be the only road to 
an explanation of the mysterious behavior of the divining 
rod, supposing it needs an explanation. The literature of 
the subject is voluminous. There are traditions that go 
back many centuries, and passages in literature indicating 
that divining by means of sticks was known to the Romans 
before the Christian era began, and to the Etruscans before 
the Romans. There are indications of the practice among 
oriental nations before it was known in Europe. A bibli- 
ography by Count Karl von Klinckowstroem gives a list of 
475 titles of publications from 1532 to 1911. They are in 
Latin, English, French, German and Dutch, and -many 
of them are from the pens of able scholars. The writers 
are divided in their opinions, some staunchly advocating the 
genuineness of the performances and demanding a search 
for the cause, while others discredit the statements and 
jeer at their supporters. Two difficulties have to be met. 
In the first place there is no sufficient proof that the actions 



DIVINATION 131 

of the divining rod result from an influence exerted by 
subterranean substances; and in the second place, if such 
influence were granted as a fact, efforts to explain it are as 
likely as not to be misdirected so long as it is not determined 
whether the influence is exerted directly upon the rod, or 
upon the person who is carrying it. If the former, the 
action is physical and needs an explanation that is inde- 
pendent of the operator, and then the rod should act equally 
well with all persons; if the latter, the explanation may be 
either physical or physiological. 

Among English investigators, one who has given much 
attention to the subject and is certainly one most competent 
to speak with authority is Sir William Fletcher Barrett, 
F. R. S. E., M. R. I. A., professor of experimental physics 
in the Royal College of Science for Ireland, and ex-president 
of The Society for Psychical Research, of which he was 
one of the founders. On behalf of this society he made an 
exhaustive study of this subject and has published much 
about it in the Journal of the society. He rejects the idea 
of any action upon the stick, but is inclined to think that the 
successful dowser has some power akin to that of the clair- 
voyant. 

One of the most important early works on the subject 
is by the Abbe Vallemont.* This treatise shows the efficacy 
of the divining rod in locating minerals of various kinds 
as well as water (no mention of oil), and also goes largely 
into its use in tracing, discovering, and detecting fugitive 
criminals, especially thieves and murderers. It gives a very 
circumstantial account of the celebrated case of the so-called 
" Lyons murderers." This story has often been told, but 
it figures so largely in connection with this subject that it 
may be briefly repeated here : 

On the evening of July 5, 1692, a vintner and his wife, of 

* La Physique Occulte, ou Traite de la baguette divinatoire t Par 
Pierre di Le Lorrain de Vallemont, A Amsterdam, 1696. 



132 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Lyons, were murdered in their wine cellar, and robbed, and 
the murderers escaped without leaving any clue to their 
identity. An acquaintance of the merchant recollected that 
a rich peasant of Dauphine, Jacques Aymar, professed to 
be able to follow the trail of thieves and murderers by means 
of the divining rod. On the invitation of the Procureur du 
Roi Aymar appeared before him and assured him that if 
the officers would take him (Aymar) to the place where the 
crime was committed that he might there get the trail 
(prendre son impression}, he would undertake to come upon 
the track of the criminals, follow them, and pick them out, 
in whatever place they might be. 

They led him to the cellar where the murder was done. 
There he became much agitated, his pulse rose as if he were 
in a violent fever, and the fork which he held between his 
hands turned down rapidly over the two spots where the 
dead bodies of the vintner and his wife had been found. 
Guided by his divining rod, he passed along various streets, 
coming finally to the Rhone gate, but this was closed against 
him as it was night. The next morning he resumed his 
way, accompanied by three witnesses, and after several 
curious indications he found that the criminals had taken to 
the river. He followed them down the Rhone more than 
thirty miles as confidently by water as by land, until he came 
to the military camp of Sablon, where he felt himself still 
more wrought up ; he expected to find and detect the murderer 
in this crowd of sdldiers ; he was sure he was there, but he 
did not dare to test the soldiers with the wand for fear 
that they would maltreat him; so he returned to Lyons and 
was again sent from that place to the camp of Sablon with 
letters of recommendation ; but he did not find the criminals 
there. He again set himself upon their track and followed 
them to Beaucaire, in Languedoc, where the famous fair 
was in progress, marking everywhere along the route the 
beds, the tables and the seats where they had rested. Search- 



DIVINATION 133 

ing through the streets of Beaucaire his wand led him to 
the gate of a prison where, he declared positively, was one 
of the villains. They opened the gate to him and led him 
to a gathering of fourteen or fifteen prisoners. To them 
all he applied his rod, but this gave no indication upon any 
of them except a hunchback who had been brought in only 
an hour before for a petty theft. The peasant declared 
that the hunchback was one of the murderers; the latter 
denied it swore he had no knowledge of the murder had 
never been at Lyons. He was taken back over the same 
route, was identified at the various places where he had 
lodged, and under considerable pressure at Lyons he finally 
confessed that he had stood guard at the door while two 
others had actually done the murder, and put the best face 
on it that he could. He was eventually convicted and exe- 
cuted. Aymar resumed the chase, following the other 
criminals to Toulouse and finally to the frontier, where he 
abandoned it. 

After this exploit the fame of Jacques Aymar spread like 
wildfire. Marvelous performances were accredited to him, 
in which he had no part at all. Soon after the Lyons affair, 
however, he performed an extraordinary piece of divination 
with his rod in tracing out and discovering the parents of 
a foundling child that had been left at the door of an asylum 
in Avignon. In the case of the murderers the pursuit lasted 
several weeks and had followed about a hundred and fifty 
miles of river and road before reaching the hunchback, and a 
still greater distance after that. 

But there were skeptics. 

The peasant accepted the invitation of the Prince of Cond6 
to demonstrate his powers at the palace of the Prince in Paris. 
Here he failed egregiously in practically every attempt that 
he made, and gave such bungling excuses for his failure 
that at last he broke down altogether, admitted that he had 
no such knowledge or ability as he had professed, that his 



134 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

pretended divinations with the rod were frauds, that he 
only practiced them for profit, and finally and especially 
that his deceptions were not so much due to impudence as 
to the manifest willingness of others to be thus deceived. 
It was as true then as now that " opportunities make rogues." 
He did not tell, however, how he accomplished his success 
when he did succeed, nor had his exposure much effect upon 
the public belief in the divining rod. 

Vallemont's treatise was first printed about 1694, before 
Aymar's confession was made public. 

Vallemont attempted to 'explain and account for the 
incidents which he narrated by a " system " which should 
suffice for all the phenomena, whether relating to minerals, 
fluids, vegetables, or animals. He evolved a theory that was 
analogous to the theory of magnetism that was accepted 
at that time. 

It was purely speculative and has long ago been ex- 
ploded, as the very assumptions upon which it proceeded are 
erroneous, but so closely does it resemble the present-day 
conception of fields of force and the Faraday conception 
of lines of force, that have been valuable in visualizing and 
helpful in studying magnetic and electric induction, that one 
might almost believe that Faraday had drawn his inspiration 
from this source. 

Agricola, in his great work DC Re Mctdlica, describes the 
use of the divining rod in connection with mining, more 
than three hundred and fifty years ago. 

A letter to Professor Barrett, published in the Journal 
of the Society for Psychical Research, Mar. 1909, lays stress 
on the fact that a twig held so as to point horizontally 
outward, in the hands of a Mr. Jervois turned violently 
upward and hit him in the chest always in crossing a certain 
spot. When his companion, Mr. Charles D. Ovenden, Dean 
of Cloghen (writer of the letter), tried it, to his amaze- 
ment the twig was bent downwards in spite of his holding it 



DIVINATION 



135 



tightly. Mr. Jervois then informed the Dean that with most 
dowsers the rod does point downwards. It acted for the 
Dean vigorously and unmistakably over subterranean water 
but was quiet above a water barrel and an open pond. He 
naively adds "the snowberry twig is much more sensitive 




Seeking for Coal and Ores with the Divining Rod in the 

1 6th Century. 
From Agricola's De Re Metallica, MDLVI. 

than the hazel " but does not say how much more sensitive 
one snowbeny twig is than another! 

Societies have been organized in Germany for the express 
purpose of investigating the phenomena of the divining rod, 
and municipalities in different parts of Europe have resorted 



136 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

to this means to find sources of water supply; in France 
a subcommittee of the commission of scientific studies in 
the bureau of waters and forests of the department of 
agriculture was appointed in 1910 to investigate the subject, 
and in 1914 was still investigating. Presumably the war 
stopped the investigation temporarily, but it will take some- 
thing more than a war to eradicate an error as deep-rooted 
as this. A flood of light will not cure the blindness of 
" those who won't see." In fact, the French government 
has recently begun new measures to locate water sources 
by means of the divining rod in the hands of professional 
dowsers. A special committee is to apply the rod to the 
desert of Sahara in the hope of opening up new oases 
there. In 1913, on the occasion of the meeting of one of 
these societies in Halle, Germany, a special endeavor was 
made to arouse interest in the subject in America. In an 
interview with a reporter of a New York newspaper, the 
writer of this was indiscreet enough to characterize the 
subject by a slang term of derision, which the newspaper 
printed and others copied. The remark drew the fire of 
various guns distributed from Maine to California and some 
in Germany, with the inevitable allusion to the things not 
dreamed of in Horatio's philosophy. The comments served 
to show, however, that the superstition has a strong hold 
upon popular belief in this country. Of various letters to 
the author, a scorching one is given in Appendix IV as a 
sample of the qualifications and the mentality of many who 
give themselves up to the fascination of the mysterious in 
nature, and resent any reflections upon their credulity. 

In exploring a section of territory, the dowser frequently 
passes over good spots, the twig remaining undisturbed. 
" Wait " says the rod to itself (or says the bearer to the 
rod) in passing such places; "Wait; there is water here, 
certainly, but we are coming to a stronger vein presently, 
and it will be better not to act until then." In a little 



DIVINATION 137 

while the twig turns. On digging there water is found and the 
rod scores a success but It failed before it succeeded. The 
dowser can only explain this discrepancy on the part of 
the rod by saying that where the rod does indicate, either the 
supply of water is more abundant or it is nearer the surface 
than elsewhere, but he does not account for his or the twig's 
foreknowledge of the fact. This introduces the dilemma 
that the twig will not act unless the underground supply 
amounts to a definite quantity, or is within some short 
distance of the surface. He is hardly willing to agree to 
this, though he does associate the vigor with which the rod 
turns down with either the nearness or the abundance of the 
water supply, energetic action meaning a good stream near the 
surface, and feeble action a stream that is weak or at a 
great depth. Sometimes he overreaches himself by the 
absurdity of his claims. He will stop where the rod turns 
down, and restoring it to its upright position he attempts 
to hold it so. In vain; it will turn down in spite of him; 
and will repeat its indications as many times as the number 
of feet the water is below the surface. After so many 
repetitions it will remain quietly upright in his hands! 
Just what it would do if measures in feet were outlawed 
and only metric measures of length were permissible, is 
not known. 

In La Nouvelle Revue for 1913 G. Fabius de Champville 
writes enthusiastically of evidence presented at the last 
preceding " Congress of Experimental Psychology " (March, 
1911), vindicating dowsers and establishing their daim to 
marvelous powers. The Congress had agreed upon several 
special tests for them, of which one was " To find and 
delimit a subterranean cavity, and determine its depth." * 

* For a circumstantial account of these tests see " Wimschelruten- 
versuche im Auslande," by Graf Karl von Klinckowstroem in 
Zeitschrift der Gas- und Wasserfachmanner in Oestreich-Ungarnj 
1913 (Wien). 



138 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Four diviners declared they could do it. They were con- 
ducted to the Bois de Vincennes in which such a cavity, 
an old disused quarry, was known to the authorities but not 
to the explorers. Each of the four, independently of the 
others, marked out the cavity accurately, and determined its 
depth to be 15 meters, 85 centimeters; the depth was 
actually 16 meters ! The precision of the results was supposed 
to be impressive and probably was convincing to some, but 
figures so precise in connection with an object so irregular 
as an old stone quarry well, such measurements are not 
usual on such occasions. One of the men even located the 
pillars in the cavity. Most extraordinary of all, they de- 
clared there was no water there, which also was a fact. 
They gave scarcely less remarkable demonstrations with 
metals. 

Just as it is now shown that many old-fashioned weather 
signs rested on true scientific principles, societies for the 
study of the divining rod ought to be able to show, if there 
were a real scientific basis for this practice or belief, that 
the early practice was an expression of scientific principles 
before they were well understood. But the study of the 
divining rod has been more like an attempt to convert a 
popular superstition into a scientific scheme; in that respect 
resembling astrology. 

That the indications of the divining rod have been fre- 
quently correct is beyond question; too frequently, in the 
opinion of Profess"br Barrett, and under conditions too 
rigorous to be regarded as coincidences. The failures are said 
to be infrequent, but it is no exaggeration to say that they 
outnumber the successes a hundred to one, for who can tell 
how many failures occur, how many veins are crossed 
without the manifestation of any disturbance by the rod? 
How, indeed, can it be shown that it has failed or where 
it has failed except by excavating the entire territory it 
has traversed? If we should regard as failures not only 



DIVINATION 139 

those instances in which it gives a false indication, but those 
in which it ought to indicate and does not, we should 
probably find that although the successes are numerous the 
failures are numberless. It is certain to succeed often 
enough to give it plausibility, for not only where water is 
scarce is the water-witch resorted to, but also in well watered 
regions where it is rare to sink a well to a depth of thirty 
feet without encountering a vein of water. 

Attempts to explain the action of the divining rod have 
attributed it to three agencies: the devil; direct action of 
the undiscovered material upon the stick or upon the bearer 
of it; and some nervous or physiological quality in that 
person. The theory of diablerie has of course disappeared 
although, in the light of modern discoveries, it looks as if 
the arch-demon had been a special foe instead of friend 
of this instrument. Could any Imp of the Perverse show 
more devilish malice than to keep the rod dormant while 
it was carried above oil deposits, and so head off the mag- 
nificent results that have come to those who " struck oil " ? 
Only since oil wells have been found by other means have 
they been included in the repertoire of the divining rod. 
Hard luck for the earlier dowsers ! 

In regard to the other two causes these questions always 
arise: If the phenomenon is an action on the twig, physical, 
what need is there of a man to carry it? If it is physiological 
or psychological, why use a twig at all? There are not 
wanting instances of men who professed sensibility to 
underground water, if flowing, and to minerals. The author 
has been importuned to investigate scientifically the extra- 
ordinary experiences of such an individual. His case, as 
represented, was very peculiar. If it should prove upon his 
return from prospecting without any twig or rod or ex- 
traneous apparatus of any kind that he had crossed subter- 
ranean water, this person would be fatigued; if common or 
low grade ores, he would have slight nausea ; if the veins or 



140 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

lodes of metal were sulphuretted, the ensuing nausea would 
be extreme, his pupils were dilated, and he suffered severe 
pains in the eyes and head; these effects were heightened 
if he carried a freshly cut staff in his hand, or even a green 
leaf between his lips. When he is walking above these 
substances he experiences only a sensation of being drawn 
toward them or attracted it was the after effects that he 
found so prostrating. Radioactive substances and an excited 
Crooke's tube disturbed him violently. He was aggrieved 
that physicists would not take him seriously, and indeed 
the impression is not unusual that science has so much to 
reveal that scientists ought not to object to chasing phantoms. 
So far from the war interfering with water-witching, it 
sometimes stimulated it. In the progress of an army through 
arid regions every sort of measure would be employed to 
find water for the soldiers. A record by Lieut-Col. H. 
Pirie Gordon of the remarkable march of General Allenby's 
forces through Palestine to the conquest of Jerusalem was 
published in the Palestine News for the Government Press 
and Survey, of Egypt (Cairo, 1919), and a review of this 
in the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society says : 

Wells were sunk where water had never been known to exist. At 
Abu Ghalyan, after two failures, the services of a "water diviner," 
an Australian engineer, were engaged. Two wells, sunk at places 
indicated by him, reached an abundant supply of water at thirteen 
feet depth.* 

This Australian engineer, Stephen Kelly, is mentioned in 
dispatches from London as recently as Jan. 7, 1920, as 
claiming to be " the only man in the world who is known 
to be able to locate water without the use of a divining rod" 
Alas, poor old rod! Having served its day it is now to be 
shelved as no longer needed, like many another creature that 
has outlived its usefulness. Mr. Kelly says " When I pass 
over ground beneath which there is water, my thumbs crossed 

* The Geographical Journal, for November, 1919. 



DIVINATION 141 

over copper" (mark that detail), "I receive immediately 
a series of shocks like electric currents, which pass up my 
arms 'and seem to finish in my chest/' He can tell with 
great accuracy the depth and quantity of water present, but 
extravagant as his claims are, he might claim much more 
and still fall short of some of his predecessors. " The only 
man in the world that can do it " is likely, however, to keep on 
appearing and reappearing indefinitely. Whether the effect 
is produced directly upon the twig or the man, it has been 
ascribed vaguely to electricity as the only scapegoat that 
can carry such a load of eccentricities. Sometimes the 
dowser contents himself with saying " It is electricity " and 
lets it go at that. To anyone who is satisfied with an ex- 
planation like that, an explanation like that is satisfactory. 

How and Why the Rod Turns in the Hands of the Diviner 
It is a maxim of science not to have recourse to an obscure 
or complicated explanation if a plain and simple one is at 
hand. Probably psychology has little to do with the action of 
the divining rod, the underground substances still less, and 
electricity nothing at all. Investigators have been so insistent 
upon seeing the supernatural as to overlook the natural; 
so intent upon explaining the mysterious ns to miss the 
obvious, and have wasted much effort and ingenuity in 
endeavoring to explain the mystery of a part of the conduct 
of the rod that is an inevitable consequence of simple 
mechanical conditions, that ought not to puzzle a physicist or 
an engineer who is acquainted with the mechanics of 
materials. The turning of the rod is not mysterious; why 
shouldn't it turn if it has a chance? Not only can "any- 
body" work it, he can hardly help doing it. 

The mechanics of the turning is not hard to make plain, 
even with few technicalities. It is simply a case of what 
the physicist calls "unstable equilibrium." The action of 
the right hand in bending its own branch of the twig is to 



142 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

make a thrust upon the head, pushing it toward the left, 
and that of the left hand thrusts towards the right, the line 
of thrust in each case passing through the axis line of the 
head, provided the lines of the twig are in the same plane as 
that in which the hands are acting. If, from any cause, 
the head moves out of this line of action, and the hands 
continue their effort in the same direction as before, then the 
force from the hand will no longer pass through the head 
of the stick, but will pass behind it if the head has moved 
forward, i.e., from the operator, or in front of it if the 
head has turned toward the operator. In either case the 
rod has lost its position of equilibrium, and the force from 
the hands has introduced a twisting or turning effort upon 
the rod which becomes greater the further it departs from 
this position. Thus the rod might as readily fly upward 
as downward from a horizontal position if not in some 
measure influenced or controlled by the bearer. A tendency 
on his part to turn the thumbs toward each other (the easiest 
way) would direct the movement of the rod downward. 
It is only when the bending force that is exerted by the 
hands is in the same plane with the branches and the stem 
that the twig can retain its position and remain quiet with its 
branches bent in a strain, and although this adjustment is 
apparently casual and crude it is really delicate, while being 
at the same time unstable. An unperceived tremor may 
start the avalanche, an unpremeditated twitch of the hand 
or a misstep in walking, any diversion or distraction of the 
person holding the twig, is enough to disturb the adjust- 
ment between the action of the hands and the reaction of the 
stick, and upon the slightest departure of the latter from 
the position of equilibrium, if the hands do not follow it 
and change so as to keep their bending effort in the same 
plane with the twig, the effect is to force it further out of 
that plane. " Follow " that change of position is precisely 
what the operator does not do. Seeing or feeling the in- 



DIVINATION 143 

cipient movement of the stick, he involuntarily clutches 
the branches more tightly or grips them more strongly, to 
hold it back, especially if he is a novice, and in so doing 
merely intensifies the turning effort of the rod so that, 
by the time the rod has reached a horizontal position, his 
hands may twist off the bark or split the wood. That is its 
most fetching performance and when this occurs the onlooker 
doubts no longer. There is no need to explain this movement 
of the twig, which occurs without conscious effort on the 
part of the operator to make it move ; it would be more re- 
markable if it did not turn, and there would be more need of 
an explanation of its failure to do so. More than this : if the 
twig were mounted mechanically, strained in the same way 
but with the same opportunity to turn as when held in the 
hands, and the machine in which it is mounted were trundled 
over uneven ground there is no doubt that the twig would 
presently lose its equilibrium and would turn upwards or 
downwards, with no human intervention whatever. It is 
strange that this mechanical action has not been pointed out 
before. In the great bulk of literature on the subject that has 
come under the notice of the author, in only two places has this 
feature been considered, and there scarcely more than hinted 
at. One of these is in Agricola's DC Re Metallica, 1556, 
already cited, and the other in an article in the American 
Journal of Science in 1826, nearly a century ago. This 
paper, unsigned, but apparently by the editor, the elder Pro- 
fessor Silliman of Yale College, recounts many absurdities 
in the use of the divining rod and concludes : " The supposed 
laws of the divining rod are absurd. It goes blindfold when 
the" diviner is blindfolded; and the cherry, the peach, and 
the hazel itself are excelled in the subtility of their divining 
motions by dry and nervous whalebone." This reference 
to the " subtility of dry and nervous whalebone " fits in with 
what we have just been saying, for the stiffer the twig the 
more vigorously it acts, and the more springy it is the more 



144 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

ready it is to act. This also explains the difference in the 
sensitiveness of various kinds of twigs. 

The other point of common remark, calling for explana- 
tion, is the repeated indication by the rod when passing 
over the same place. This is doubtless exaggerated. It 
does not occur nearly so frequently nor so exactly as is 
commonly supposed, and is by no means to be depended 
upon if the operator is blindfolded. 

One of the latest official documents on the subject is a 
historical account with a bibliography, by Arthur J. Ellis.* 
This book of some sixty pages presents the various phases 
under which this method of divining has appeared, with 
the extravagant claims that are made for it, and also com- 
ments on mechanical devices that have been invented to 
serve without regard to the individuality of the dowser. 
The bibliography is especially valuable, comprising 572 titles 
brought up to date (1917), thus greatly extending that 
of Klinckowstroem. In an introduction to the work, O. E. 
Meinzer of the U. S. Geological Survey says : 

" It is doubtful whether so much investigation and discussion have 
been bestowed on any other subject with such absolute lack of 
positive results. It is difficult to see how for practical purposes 
the entire matter could be more thoroughly discredited. . . . 
To all inquirers the United States Geological Survey therefore gives 
the advice not to expend any money for the services of any ' water- 
witch or for the use or purchase of any machine or instrument devised 
for locating underground water or minerals.' " 

The lengths te which this superstition has been carried 
by intelligent people are beyond belief. Every age prides 
itself upon its intellectual advancement, and boasts of its 
superiority over powers of darkness that would blind its 
vision or impede its progress. When witchcraft and magic 
were accepted as genuine exhibitions of real though myste- 

* The Divining Rod. A History of Water -Witching, with a 
Bibliography, by Arthur J. Ellis, Water Supply Paper 416, of the 
United States Geological Survey, 1917. 



DIVINATION 145 

rious power, the divining rod might have been thought not 
impossible; but even now, in this latest period of enlighten- 
ment, we can only re-echo the words of a writer concerning 
the mental attitude of cultivated people in France two cen- 
turies ago : " Our age," says he, " is as easy to be imposed 
on as any whatsoever. . . . We have no reason to say the 
World is grown wiser nowadays. It is the Same it ever 
was ; every Delusion which flatters its passions, is pleasing ; 
it is not ashamed of being convinced it was imposed upon; 
nor has it upon that Account, the less Respect for the Im- 
poster ; and cries out as much as ever, against the Incredulity 
of those who will not suffer themselves to be deceived." 
(Bayle's Dictionary, Article "Abaris.") 

PALMISTRY 

If astrology stands first in scientific divination, palmistry 
is a good second, though the latter is of necessity confined 
to the individual. It has nothing to do with historical, 
economical, or national affairs, except in so far as the 
special individual is concerned in such things. 

Says a recent author : " Never was there a hand that 
did not exactly reflect the brain that directs it, and this is 
the basis from which a scientific study of the hand must 
begin."* A complete system of chiromancy or palmistry 
takes account of all the markings or formations of the 
hand, and their relative values, but there are two that are 
more important than the others, namely, the lines and the 
mounts. The earlier palmists laid more stress upon the 
lines, while with the moderns the mounts receive more 
attention. In one other matter, also, modern practitioners 
are at variance with earlier ones and to some extent with 
one another: the earliest treatises rested the subject wholly 
upon astrology; not only the characteristics of the individ- 

* The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading. A Practical Treatise on 
the Art Commonly Called Palmistry, by William G. Benham. 
ii 



146 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

ual, but the markings of the hand by which his character 
is revealed; and some still adhere to that view, but others 
now disclaim any astrological or planetary influence in fix- 
ing the markings of the hand. Speaking of the mounts 
Mr. Benham says 

" The names which appear on the Mounts are not used in any 
astrological sense, but because they have been so long in use that 
the mention of each name instinctively brings to mind certain at- 
tributes. . . . They are not used because it is considered that 
planetary influences are necessary, or play any part in our science." * 

An English writer says " Chiromancy is nearly as ancient 
as astrology, with which it is indissolubly connected/' and 
takes sharp exception to a statement by a " well known 
writer " who disavows astrology in a sentence very like 
that just quoted from Mr. Benham. f 

It is a peculiar satisfaction to writers on chiromancy to 
be able to back their statements with the authority of 
Aristotle who wrote extensively on this subject. Says one 
of the best French authorities, 

" Aristotle declares (De coelo et mundi causa) that not without 
reason are the lines graven in the hand of man, and that they are 
due, above all, to the influence of the heavens and of a distinct human 
individuality." $ 

We need not go into any extended exposition of palmistry. 
Its remarkable possibilities may be seen from a consideration 
of only one of the sets of things in the hand, upon which 
character reading is- based; that is, the Mounts. These are 
prominences surrounding the central part of the palm, be- 
low the creases that are at the base of the thumb and 
fingers. If we divide the thick part of the hand at the 
edge opposite the base of the thumb into two, there are 

* Ibid. 

f The Influence of the Stars. I, Astrology; II, Chiromancy; III , 
Physiognomy, by Rosa Baughan, London, 1889. 

t Chiromancie nouvellc. Les mysteres de la main. Adolphe 
Desbarolles, Paris, 1859. 



DIVINATION 



147 



seven mounts in all, which, beginning at the base of the 
thumb, and following the fingers, are successively the mounts 
of Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, The Sun, Mercury, Mars, and 
The Moon. In earlier practice these names signified the 
heavenly bodies which control human destinies, and the 
effect of which is directly manifest in the peculiarities of 
the mounts themselves; in some of the later practice they 
are simply the names of the deities by which the mounts are 
known. 

Both ideas are shown in this scheme: 



Luminary 


Position of Mount 


Deity 


Jupiter, Ql 


At base of fore-finger 


Jove or Jupiter 


Saturn, {p . . . . 


At base of second finger 


Saturn 


Sun or Sol, Q . . . . 
Mercury, g 

Mars, 0* 1 


At base of ring ringer 
At base of little or ear 
finger 
At middle of outer edge 


Apollo or Sun 
Mercury 

Mars 


Moon, 3) . . 


of palm 
Outer edge of palm near 


Luna or Moon (Cynthia) 


Venus, Q . 


wrist 
Base of thumb 


Venus 









There has been more uncertainty about placing Mars 
than any of the other bodies, but the modern arrangement 
places an " Upper Mars " between Mercury and the Moon, 
and a " Lower Mars " between Jupiter and the lower joint 
of the thumb. The depressed central part of the palm has 
always been known as the " Plain of Mars." 

If any one of the seven mounts is of marked prominence, 
it puts its possessor into one of seven classes or types into 
which the entire human race is divided; he may be a 
Jupiterian, or Apollonian, or Martian, the superiority of 
any mount signifying well-defined traits of character, fit- 
ness for particular lines of work, and congeniality with other 
people whose hands show a like temperament, while a de- 



148 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



pression or an inferiority of a mount has a contrary inter- 
pretation. These seven mounts in palmistry serve the same 
purpose in classifying human beings as is served in astrology 
by the twelve houses of heaven, dominated by the twelve 
constellations of the zodiac, except that these latter concern 
every sort of mundane creatures and affairs. The general 




Diagram Showing Mounts and Principal Lines of the Hand. 

types of character thus symbolized by prominence of the 
mounts are 

The Jupiterian; marked by ambition, leadership, religion, 

honor, love of nature. 
The Saturnian; soberness, wisdom, sadness, superstition, 

gloom. 



DIVINATION 149 

The Apollonian ; brilliancy, success, and an artistic, dashing, 
happy temperament. 

The Mercurian; shrewdness, industry, scientific mind, busi- 
ness quickness. 

The Martian; resistance, courage, coolness, calmness, ag- 
gression, qualities of the warrior. 

The Lunarian; imagination, fancy, mysticism, coldness, 
selfishness. 

The Venusian ; love, sympathy, music, grace, passion. 

Of course these general traits are modified by a thousand 
other considerations drawn from the lines, and the shape 
and marking of the fingers, as well as the general form 
and condition of the hand. It is interesting to compare this 
classification, however, with the significance of the sun and 
planets, on page 36. 

If a mount is shifted from its normal position, the 
qualities associated with it are modified by those of the 
neighboring mount toward which it is displaced. In the 
diagram, each one of the mounts at the base of the four 
fingers is shoved over to the right. 

Among the lines of the hand the three principal ones are 
the Life Line, the Head Line, and the Heart Line, numbered 
respectively i, 2, and 3, in the above figure. 

How the Hand Affords an Infinite Variety of Interpretations 
The schoolboy studying algebra is always glad to get 
away from " Permutations and Combinations," but they 
demonstrate the multitude of possibilities in interpreting 
by palmistry and show its adaptability to the widest diver- 
sity of character, for this adaptability arises from the com- 
binations of the markings that are possible. Neglect, for 
the present, everything connected with the shape of the 
hand and fingers, and the complex set of lines in the palm ; 
the variety in the nails, etc. ; and consider only the mounts. 
If all are normally developed the subject is probably well 



150 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

balanced but (a) if any one mount is especially prominent 
that fact at once opens up one order of characterization, 
and as it might be any one of the seven, here ar6 at once 
seven possibilities of interpretation open to the palmist; 
that is, we must have as many combinations as are possible 
of six out of seven things, combined with the other one. 
This number is seven. 

(of) The same would apply if any one mount is espe- 
cially small or undeveloped; this affords the opportunity 
for a negative interpretation, for now the subject is defi- 
cient in the qualities indicated by the prominence of that 
mount, and there are seven such possibilities. 

(b) Suppose two are prominent, no matter which two; 
there are now possible all combinations of seven things 
taken five at a time, that is, twenty -one, but (&') there might 
be two at a time depressed instead of elevated, and this 
would give twenty-one possibilities. 

(&") Instead of both being extra high or low, either one 
might be high and the other low, and so we have forty-two 
more possibilities, or eighty-four because of a departure 
from the normal of only two out of the seven mounts. 

(c) If three are unduly large, the combinations of seven 
things taken four at a time are thirty-five in number, and 
if they are unduly small, again there are thirty-five cases 
to interpret; thus the three may constitute an irregularity 
by all three being large, or any two of the three large 
and the remaining" one small, or one large and two small, 
or all three small; and the possible abnormality of three 
mounts opens up eight times thirty-five, or two hundred 
and eighty possible varieties of character. 

This kind of calculation is exasperating and we need not 
carry it further, but it demonstrates that discrepancies in 
the seven mounts as to their size alone will produce about 
a thousand modifications of character. Now when it is 
remembered that the general conformation of the hand 



DIVINATION 151 

the peculiarities of the joints and the various lines in the 
palm may all be interpreted separately or in conjunction 
with the mounts, and that the five fingers considered as 
to excess or defect in length separately or in combination 
just as the mounts were considered will afford a large 
number of interpretations, it is easily seen that the palmist 
need be under no apprehension of repeating himself in read- 
ing the character of many individuals in close succession. 

Of course this wide variety is not due to palmistry per 
sc, but to the fact that there are seven mounts entering 
into combination; precisely the same would apply to inter- 
preting physiognomy if it were based upon combinations 
of seven features, as the eyes, ears, mouth, nose, and chin. 
The idea that an individual from his birth is of a distinct 
type (one of seven recognizable types) and that his hand 
will infallibily take on such a form and such markings as 
go with all the people of that type is one toward which 
palmists today seem to be inclining more and more, but 
it has the danger of inverting the relation of the man to 
his environment. Hands of different persons do differ 
naturally, as indisputably as do the persons, but not enough 
account seems to be taken of the kind of work they have 
had to do, whether they were especially fitted for it or not. 
Instead of the hand presaging the kind of handicraft for 
which its possessor is temperamentally fitted, its form is 
largely due to the work to which it has been applied. If 
a blacksmith has large, strong hands, and a pianist has 
long, flexible fingers, these are slight facts upon which to 
predict that a possessor of large strong hands would make 
a good blacksmith, or that one whose fingers were long, 
slender and supple might not be hopelessly unfit to become 
a pianist. The man is not a blacksmith because his hand 
is suitable for such work, more probably his hand is what 
it is because he is a blacksmith. The " son of toil " is 
bound to be " horny handed," but as often as not he is in 



152 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

a state of revolt against his necessity to toil, and makes a 
poor showing in it. 

In either the astrological view or its alternative, the 
reading rests upon assumptions that have not been 
proved to be true, and until they are so proved this scheme 
of divination is no better than any one that is pure in- 
vention. It is certain to give correct indications sometimes, 
and yet it has unlimited possibilities of mistakes and ab- 
surdities. Its advocates insist that the intimate associa- 
tion of the mounts with a distinct type of character, of 
the lines with special mental and moral traits, etc., has been 
so often and so exactly verified as to put the matter beyond 
question and to warrant them in regarding the assumptions 
proven. The skeptics, on the other hand, think that all 
this corresponds to the fallacy that distinguishes prophecies 
in general, namely, coincidence combined with the fact that 
one success outweighs many failures. The more varied and 
detailed the interpretations the greater the likelihood that 
some will be correct. 

The following example of medieval extravagance, and the 
conservatism which it produced in a hand reader of that 
time, is not more superstitious for its day than are the 
modern attempts to connect the numerous and varied lines 
and markings of the hand with attributes of human character 
in the greatest minutiae of detail : 

" If there be about the first joynt of the thumb, a crest like a 
ring going round about, and dividing the thumb, many do stifly judge 
and say, that that man "shall be hanged. The which thing I have 
proved true in one man, but because I have seen many hanged which 
have lacked that mark, I leave it as uncertain." * 

PHRENOLOGY 

Whereas Aristotle and the earlier philosophers regarded 
the feelings and emotions as proceeding from the heart, 
later physiologists decided that the brain is the organ con- 
trolling these attributes, and that the display of any one is 

*Indagine, Palmestry and Physiognomy, etc., London, 165 ? 



DIVINATION 



153 



dependent upon the functioning of a particular part of the 
brain. When it became known that injury to certain 
parts of the brain invariably resulted in the impairment of 
equally certain faculties, it was an easy inference that if 
any special traits of character were largely developed the 
corresponding portion of the brain would have grown vigor- 
ously, and would be prominent among the other parts of 
the brain. Then the way was open for a beautiful piece of 
theorizing. No matter under what auspices one was born, 
as he developed, his brain would shape itself to accord with 




Map of Character outlined upon the Human Skull 
according to Phrenology. 



154 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



his temperament, and by an examination of the former 
the latter could be determined. But character is formed in the 
early years of life, and in those years the skull is yielding and 
formative, and the brain will not only take its appropriate 
form but will give to the skull a shape such that its uneven- 
ness will reveal the characteristics of the brain, and enable 
the practitioner to read the character of its owner. 

A systematic apportionment of traits of character to 
different parts of the brain, together with the corresponding 
evidence of specific brain development and brain function- 
ing in corresponding prominences of the skull, practically 
began with Dr. F. J. Gall, of Vienna and Paris, about the 
beginning of the nineteenth century. His system was quickly 
taken up and pushed by John Caspar Spurzheim of Germany, 
George Combe of Edinburgh, O. S. Fowler and others in 
America. The figure shows the arrangement of 
" bumps " and the traits of character they indicate, as they 
were accepted by the early phrenologists and have been 
continued with little modification ever since. 

The following classification is the key to the diagram : * 



AFFECTIVE 


INTELLECTUAL 


I, Propensities 


II, Sentiments 


I, Perceptive 


II, Reflective 


I, Amativeness 


10, Self esteem 


22, Individuality 


34, Comparison 


2, Philoprogeni- 


ii, Love of ap- 


23, Form 


35, Causality 


tiveness 


probation 


24, Size 




3, Concentrative- 


12, Cautiousness 


25, Weight 




ness 


13, Benevolence 


26, Coloring 




4, Adhesiveness 


14, Veneration 


27, Locality 




5, Combati veness 


15, Firmness 


28, Number 




6, Destructive- 


16, Conscien- 


29, Order 




ness 


tiousness 


30, Eventuality 




Alimentiveness 


17, Hope 


31, Time 




7, Secretiveness 


18, Wonder 


32, Time 




8, Acquisitive- 


19, Ideality 


33, Language 




ness 


Unascer- 






9, Constructive- 


tained 






ness 


20, Wit or mirth- 








fulness 








21, Imitation 







* System of Phrenology, George Combe, Edinborough, 1834. 



DIVINATION 155 

All this greatly stimulated physicians and physiologists in 
efforts to locate the traits of character in the brain, and 
rapidly opened the way for extremists and quacks. No 
matter how profound the depths that are explored, or how 
startling the scientific discovery that results, the discoverer 
is promptly called upon to prove its " utility." The real 
student and scholar is always met by the philistine with the 
question "Of what real use is your theory or your 
knowledge?" and the question is likely to carry with 
it a sneer that is only half concealed. While a science 
is growing, its application is pushed in practice, and 
this, in turn, stimulates its growth; there could be no 
reasonable objection to this, but oftentimes a limited view 
or a narrowly restricted portion of the science, is taken 
and elaborated in great detail and made to cover a large 
range of human life and experience. Here is where the 
pretender and the quack find their opportunity. Dr. Gall him- 
self had distinctly declared that he did not teach that a 
strongly developed propensity would always be attended by an 
enlarged portion of brain, or a corresponding bump of the 
skull, but that the character must be deduced from a com- 
plete consociation of all the brain formation, yet, notwith- 
standing this declaration, long before the genuineness and 
the correctness of the above-described chart could be estab- 
lished, peripatetic would-be phrenologists were traversing the 
land, examining heads, making out charts of character, and 
reading out the aptitudes or inaptitudes of the wondering 
auditors. This resulted in large preversion of small sci- 
entific knowledge. 

An amusing instance of the misapplication of this doctrine 
occurred in the experience of the distinguished alienist the 
late Dr. Allan McLane Hamilton, which he relates as 
follows in "Recollection of an Alienist": 

" In an Italian murder trial . . . much testimony had been given 
by an anthropologist and craniologist in regard to the peculiar 



156 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

shortness of the head of the defendant. So improbable was his testT- 
mony that on my way down town the next morning I stopped at 
the shop of Dunlap, the hatter, and procured a number of con- 
format eur tracings, which I gave to the District Attorney, whose 
first words to the witness who resumed his place on the stand were, 
1 Doctor, extreme length of the head is also a stigma of insanity, 
is it not ? ' To which the witness at once assented. * Now, Doctor, 
I will show you some tracings and get you to give your opinion 
of their meaning/ The witness at once admitted that they looked 
as if they might have been made from the heads of insane people 
'in fact he was quite sure that all these people were insane to 
some degree' or words to that effect. 'Well,' said his merciless 
cross -examiner, 'would it surprise you to know that the first series 
were taken from the heads of William H. Vanderbilt and his sons, 
and the last is from the head of his Honor, the judge who presides 
in this case?'" 

The explosion that followed was allowed to pass without 
reprimand from the Court. 

In America, at least, a good deal of the exploitation of 
phrenology was directed along the line of sexuality, animal 
qualities, indications that would determine happy or un- 
happy married relations, etc., involving much that faddists 
today like to present under the name of eugenics. This 
did not diminish popular interest in the subject perhaps it 
augmented it, for no one could doubt the utility of such 
knowledge as phrenology offered. It opened clear avenues 
to the attainment of happiness and wealth; it guided the 
passions without danger of making mistakes ; it straightened 
and leveled the road, ^and diminished the labor that led to 
success; schools were established and courses of instruction 
given in phrenology, and soon the new and vitally important 
science was being disseminated by a horde of semi-pro- 
fessionals, whose principal qualifications for their under- 
taking were brass and nerve. It was not rare to come upon 
such a "Professor" in an obscure district school house 
lighted by a few candles stuck in ink bottles, lecturing 
sagely to a coterie of men, women and children, who were 



DIVINATION 157 

as much awed by the easy familiarity with which the 
speaker tossed a human skull in the air or from one hand 
to the other, as by his analysis of character and his skill in 
reading it. 

The public, however, was ripe for the movement and 
responded, so long, at least, as the novelty lasted. The wave 
of interest seemed to be at its highest in the years 1840 to 
1850, after which it subsided. It was another example of 
mass-psychology, in the dominating effect of one novel idea, 
persistently pushed. 

Its propaganda was met by pen, by pencil, and from the 
platform of the orator. George Cruikshank ridiculed it in 
a series of his witty drawings in 1826. Most of the efforts 
to confute it were like fuel to a flame, and when this 
stimulation subsided, the doctrine itself died of inanition. 
Scientific brain study today practically disowns the entire 
scheme of phrenology. 

PHYSIOGNOMY 

In the face especially does the variety of features make 
an excellent basis for the reading of character, and the 
artist has to learn how to express varied emotions and 
feelings by his delineation (tracing the lines) of the features, 
so as to display any disposition, gay or somber, mercurial or 
saturnine ; and to represent hope, fear, love, hate, the whole 
gamut of passions. 

The form and markings of the hand, and face, and the 
skull constitute in each case a system of character-reading, 
but in divining from either of these separately the reader 
may encounter markings that are contradictory; the traits 
indicated by one mark may modify or annul those of 
another, and the reader has to take this into account in 
making up the character. While a skilful artist can safely 
count upon his ability to depict the features so as to show 
character, it is not so safe to infer character from the 



158 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



features of an actual person; for in individuals who are 
distinguished for the same kind of talents, there are some- 
times facial contrasts that appear to be contradictions. 
Palmists exhibit the hands and phrenologists the skulls of 
noted individuals, creditable and discreditable, whose 
characters were clearly indicated by their physical formation, 
but it would be illuminating if we could sometimes see 




Ludwig van Beethoven, Sketched from Life by 
Johann Peter Lyser. 

alongside of these the portraits of celebrities of like nature, 
whose form and features were strikingly different from those 
chosen for demonstration. We need not seek far for ex- 
amples: Whatever it may be especially that constitutes a 



DIVINATION 159 

musician or the musical temperament, it would scarcely be 
denied that both Beethoven and Mozart were musicians 
par excellence, and yet one could hardly conclude so from 
their faces ; for if Beethoven's head and face are character- 
istically those of a musician, it is impossible to take those 
of Mozart or Wagner to be such. Beethoven's nose was 
short and stubby, that of Mozart was long and pointed 
but perhaps the nose has nothing to do with music ; Beethoven 
had a shock of curly and unmanageable hair, Mozart's hair 
was silky and obedient to the brush but maybe the hair 
means nothing in regard to musical talent; Beethoven's 
cheeks were pudgy, Mozart's were thin ; Beethoven's face was 
short and broad, Mozart's long and narrow ; which face, then, 
indicates the musician? It is generally admitted that Lyser's 
drawing of Beethoven is very lifelike,* and this, with the bust 
that was made from actual plaster casts, enables us to make 
up his physiognomy pretty correctly. The portraits here 
shown are those most approved by critics, and show that there 
is not much encouragement for physiognomy in carrying the 
comparison further. If the hands are compared, again we 
find a sharp contradiction, for Mozart's were well adapted to 
playing the piano or for fingering any musical instrument, 
while Beethoven's fingers were flat at the ends and so short 
that he could not span an octave. The artists were alike in 
being both under size, neither exceeding five feet six in height, 
but Beethoven's figure was stocky, while that of Mozart 
was slender; which of the two, then, bore the marks of the 
musician? If Physiognomy acknowledged the one, would 
it deny the other ? Apparently there remains little chance for 
it to detect their similarity in talent unless it should be 

* Of Lyser's sketch says Von Frimmel (Beethoven s dusserliche 
Erscheinung) , "Dr. Gerhard von Breuning who, as a boy, frequently 
saw the great virtuoso (Tonmeister), states in his book Aus dem 
Schwarzspanier House that the manner of Beethoven's carriage is 
well hit off in Lyser's drawing." The face, he thinks, is not so well 
done. The nose is here made too pointed. 



160 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

by their phrenological bumps, and of those there is no 
record. 

It is plain that although the artist knows that if lie draws 
lines in certain shapes and positions he will depict certain 
emotions, it does not follow that an actual face that is 
marked by those lines has those emotions back of it. 

And so we come to physiognomy in the large sense of the 
term. As such it comprises all that could belong to the 
interpretation of character from any and all portions of the 
body, and in this we reach a phase, the consideration of 
which places the subject upon a higher plane. There is no 
doubt that we all read character to some extent from 
physical appearance. We do it involuntarily long before 
we learn how to do it. Most of us never do learn how, but 
we never meet a stranger privately or see a man in a 
public character without sizing him up or forming some 
estimate of him from the cast of his features, and his 
carriage and movements; often we are predisposed thereby 
to likes and dislikes and we are continually making mis- 
takes. It is the boast of some that their first impressions 
are the truest, but the bulk of experience is the other way, 
and the reversals are often as decided as the confirmations. 
As to features in detail, their relations to character are 
too contradictory to justify the extent to which reading 
from the hand or the skull or the face has been elaborated. 
In Character Reading through Analysis of the Features 
(by Gerold Elton Fosbroke) definite characterization is 
made from each separate feature ; and there is probably not 
one of those interpretations that cannot be confirmed in the 
experience of the reader and not one that is not contra- 
dicted but one confirmation outweighs many contradictions. 

Aristotle's treatise on physiognomy took into consideration 
the proportions and development not only of the face, but 
also of the head, neck, limbs, and torso, and the significance 



DIVINATION 



161 



of any or all of these in respect to character and tempera- 
ment. 

In thfe latter part of the sixteenth century, a work of the 
same nature, " De Humana Physiognomia," was produced by 




Wolfgang Amade Mozart, after 
the Medallion by Posch in the 
Mozarteum at Salzburg. 




Bust of Beethoven by F. Klein. 



an Italian savant, John Baptist Porta, and this and Aristotle's 
treatise were the principal standards of reference for artists 
as well as philosophers for many years. 

In 1787 appeared the classic on this subject from the pen 
of the Swiss naturalist Lavater; a monumental work which 
has often been reprinted either abridged or in full, and with 
additions.* In thirteen " etudes," it discusses the entire 
range of human characteristics as they are indicated by the 
body, and also shows comparisons of human beings with 
other animals. By physiognomy the author means all the 
external markings of the body that may indicate the man 
within, and they include pose, gesture, movements voluntary 
and involuntary, the body in action as well as at rest. As 

* L'Art dc Connaitrc les Hommcs par la Physionomic, par Jean 
Gaspard Lavater. 

12 



162 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

a broad-minded, philosophic discourse on the display of 
character by the human form and movements it is more than 
imposing, it is magnificent: and when its poise, tits de- 
liberateness, and its sagacity are appreciated, the pretensions 
of lesser lights to find in the trend of every line and in every 
involuntary movement an index to some specific trait of 
character are ludicrous. 

The author does not fail to recognize the earlier treatises, 
but discusses them rationally. He has no patience, however, 
with those who would link physical signs with astrological; 
he scorns the plan of limiting the readings to a narrow 
scheme like that of the hand or the face, and shows that 
practitioners under such limitations contradict themselves 
as well as one another. It is true that of all the sources 
of expression he does attach much greater importance to the 
face than to any other one portion of the body, but here, 
too, he is critical of the work of his predecessors. Especially 
had it been, as it still is, the sine qua non of success in 
portraiture, whether in painting or sculpture, but particularly 
in painting, to know how to line and tint a face so as to 
give an unmistakable character to the subject, whether that 
character be true or false. Accordingly, many of Lavater's 
illustrations and comments are drawn from the work of 
great masters. Charles LeBrun, painter to King Louis XIV, 
had a system of his own for drawing character, and Albrecht 
Diirer employed a formal anthropometric method for the 
same purpose. Both of these are critically reviewed by 
Lavater. He makes liberal and especial use of the drawings 
of Hogarth and Holbein. The figure (p. 163) by the latter 
artist is an excellent example. We need not accept this 
as an authentic portrait of Judas Iscariot, nor are we certain 
that it closely resembles him, but it is doubtless a good 
picture of how the artist thought he ought to look to be 
true-to type. 

The work of Lavater rose so high above the level of 



DIVINATION 163 

any others extant at that time that little was added to it for 
more than eighty years. 

In 1667 the great naturalist Charles Darwin was studying 
the " Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals," 
under which title he published the results of his investigations 
a few years later. His immediate purpose, however, was 
not to determine a key to character by physiognomy, but 




Judas Iscariot, from Lavater; after painting by Holbein. 

to see in how far any muscular or physiological action ex- 
hibited by the lower animals was also displayed by man in 
expressing an emotion or a feeling like that influencing the 
beast. He addressed a questionnaire of sixteen queries to 
competent observers in all parts of the world, living among 
savage as well as civilized people; and from their replies, 
as well as his own observations, he produced his celebrated 
treatise. 

Darwin's work, published in 1872, is the most notable 
advance that has been made in this subject since Lavater, a 
position which it has held for half a century. 

Within the last few years, Dr. Katherine M. Blackford 



164 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

and A. Newcomb have published several works to show 
how to analyze character by physiognomy, and how the 
science may be applied to advantage in placing men and 
women in vocations to which they are suited. This is a 
repetition of what palmistry and phrenology assumed to 
do, without their extravagant and irrational pretensions, 
and with more regard for well-determined relations between 
character and its outward expression. 

REFERENCES 

Occult Review, Article on Dowsing, by W. F. Barrett. London, 

1910. 
Dictionary, Historical etc. Peter Bayle, In English, Article 

" Abaris." London, 1734. 
Bibliographic der Wunschdrute, Graf Karl von Klinckowstroem, 

Munchen, 1911. 
La Physique occulte, ou Traite de la baguette divinatoire; Pierre 

di le Lorrain Yallemont, Amsterdam, 1696. 
De Re Metallica, Libri XII, Georgius Agricola, Froben, Basilae, 

MDLVI. 
De re metallica (English), Translated by H. C and L. H. 

Hoover. 
The Divining Rod ; A History of Water-Witching, with a 

Bibliography. Arthur J. Ellis. Water supply paper, 416, 

of U. S. Geological Survey, Washington, 1917. 
The Divining Rod ; By Charles Latimer, Civ. Eng., Cleveland, O., 

1876. 

Nourclle Revue, Paris, 1913, Serie 4, tome 6. 
La Nature, Paris 1914, Annee 42. Le congres de la baguette 

divinatoire a Halle sur la Saale. 

Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 1909-1910. 
The Laws of Scientific Hand Reading. A practical Treatise 

on the Art Commonly Called Palmistry. By William G. 

Benham, New York and London, 1906. 
Chiromancie nouvelle. Les mysteres de la main. Adolphe 

Desbarrolles, Paris. 
A System of Phrenology, By George Combe, Late President of 

tjie Phrenological Society. (From the fourth and last 

revised and enlarged) Edinburgh edition. New York, 1843. 
Outlines of Phrenology, by J. C. Spurzheim, London, 1829. 



DIVINATION 165 

Phrenology Proved ; O. S. Fowler, S. N. Fowler, S. Kirkham, 

New York, 1837. 
I/Art cle connaitrc les hommes par La Physionomie ; par Gaspard 

'Lavater, Paris, 1820. 

This edition, in ten volumes, according to the title page, 

is " augmeiitee d'un exposition des recherches ou des opinions 

de La Chambre, de Porta, de Camper, de Gall sur la 

physioiiomie ; d'une Histoire anatomique et physiologique de 

la face etc., par M, Moreau (de la Sarthe) Professeur 

a la Faculte de medecinc de Paris." 
Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Kdited by J. A. 

Fuller Maitland, M.A., F.S.A., Five volumes. Philadelphia, 

i y 1 6. 
The History of Animals of Aristotle ; and his Treatise on 

Physiognomy, translated from the Greek, by Thomas Taylor, 

London, 1809. 



166 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 




The Cacique of Guatavita Surrounded by Indian Priests on a Raft, 
upon which he was conveyed to the Middle of the Lake on the Day 
of Oblation. This object, taken from the lake of Siecha some miles 
from Lake Guatavita, was of gold, nearly ten inches in diameter 
and weighed about nine ounces. By courtesy of Dr. H. J. Spinden 
of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University. 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 

EL DORADO 

Among the effects produced by Columbus' discovery of 
a new world and by the extraordinary tales which the 
discoverers told of the land its animal, vegetable, and 
mineral wonders was an insatiate greed for gold and 
precious stones to be taken from the savage inhabitants. 
The famous band of conquistadores that took reckless chances 
and gave to their expeditions an air of romance ; explorers 
of high rank and noble family ; were associated with ruffians 
and villains who would stop at no violence if plunder was 
in sight. To their heated imagination, in this world of 
wonders mountains gleamed with jewels and rivers were 
bedded with gold. With every breath the conquerors drew 
they inhaled the spirit of adventure like incense, and a mere 
tradition among the natives was sufficient to start them 
upon an exploring expedition. By 1529, only thirty years 
after the Spaniards first set foot on the main land, they 
were colonizing the western coast of South America, and 
it was then that they learned of El Dorado a story that 
was to lead them upon a course of murder, robbery, and 
destruction. 

The interior of Columbia, or New Granada as it was 
called in those days, is an extended plateau or table land, 
the Paramo, at an elevation of 3000 meters or more. It was 
peopled by Indian tribes, and on it were numerous lakes 
which were regarded by the Indians as holy places, each 
of which was presided over by a special god or demon, 
to whom the natives made offering by throwing into the 
lake articles of gold, silver, or jewelry, emeralds or other 
precious stones. Five of these lakes were especial sanc- 
tuaries or altars of devotion, the principal one being Gua- 

167 



168 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

tavita, which became celebrated as the place where 
the myth of El Dorado originated. This was north of 
Bogota, the capital city of Columbia, which was founded 
by the Spanish in 1538 as Santa Fc de Bogota. A tragedy, 
the unhappy love story of a legendary princess, gave to this 
lake the glamor of romance in the eyes of the unromantic 
but superstitious tribes. To escape punishment for the 
supposed violation of an inexorable law, the wife of one 
of their earlier chiefs had thrown herself into the lake of 
Guatavita, and was transformed into a goddess, who became 
its divinity. 

Besides the Indians of the tribe of Guatavita (the Muys- 
cas), pilgrims came from the communes around to cast their 
offerings of gold and emeralds into the water. 

The Spaniards were not slow in making efforts to retrieve 
the treasures from the lakes, which they drained or dredged 
or fished over as far as practicable. 

The term " El Dorado " means " the gilded one/* and 
has been employed to designate a South American Indian 
chief who was "gilded" or covered with gold for a cere- 
monial occasion. But the term has also been used to 
indicate a country abounding in gold, and it is not certain 
which usage is the older. The romantic history that has 
given a fascination to the name rests chiefly upon several 
legends, the most generally accepted of which is recorded 
by Juan Rodriguez Fresle in a history of New Granada, 
written in 1636.* Other writers, both before and after 
that date, have given the story in one form or another, but 
that of Fresle, besides being very circumstantial, comes as 
near as any to being first-hand information. 

The distinguished naturalist and explorer, the late Dr. 

* Conquista I Descubrimicnto del Nuevo Reino de Granada de las 

Indias Occidentals . . . por Juan Rodriguez Fresle, Bogota, 1859. 

(For a fuller title of this history and statement of its contents, see 

"References" at the end of this chapter. D. W. H.) 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 169 

A. F. A. Bandelier, published in 1893 an account of the 
legend and of the various expeditions that were made in 
search of the man and the country of gold, so far as could 
be gathered from the records up to that time. * Since then, 
further discoveries and the publication of old documents 
have thrown some additional light upon the subject, and the 
Bulletin of the Pan American Utnion, in the numbers from 
January to June 1912, contains a series of articles by J. A. 
Manso, Ph.D., that gives a particularly good summary of 
information that is now available concerning El Dorado. 
Dr. Manso himself thinks that a more complete, authori- 
tative work is a desideratum. 

The part of Fresle's history that succinctly relates the 
legend is as follows : After spending his youth in Spain, the 
historian returned to America where, among friends he 
made there, was one 

"Don Juan, Cacique and lord of Guatavita, nephew of the king 
whom the conquistadores found ruling at the time when they con- 
quered that kingdom; he was the direct successor to his uncle, 
and he narrated to me their traditions and customs. 

"He said that at the time when the Spaniards entered upon the 
discovery and conquest of this kingdom, he was in the course of 
his fasting preliminary to succeeding his uncle; for among them the 
heirs were the nephews, sons of the sisters, and this custom has 
been maintained to the present time; and that when he began this 
fasting he was of mature age; which fasting and other ceremonies 
were as follows : It was customary among these natives that he 
who was to be the successor and heir to the Seigniory or cacique-ship 
of his uncle, to whom he was heir, had to fast during six years, 
secluded in a cave which was dedicated and set apart for the purpose, 
and that in all this time he had to keep aloof from women, must 
eat no meat, or salt, or pepper, and had to comply with other 
prohibitions; among these, that during the fast, he was not to see 
the sun; only at night was he permitted to leave the cave, and set 
the moon and stars, and he had to return before the sun was visible; 
and upon the completion of the fasting and ceremonies he was put 

*Th* Gilded Man (El Dorado), by A. F. A. Bandelier, New 
York, 1893. 
13 



170 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

in possession of the seigniory or caciqueship, and the first journey 
that he had to make, was to go to the great lake of Guatavita to 
make offering and sacrifice to the demon which they held .its lord 
and master. This ceremony of oblation was, that at that lake there was 
constructed a large raft of rushes, which they prepared and decorated 
as gorgeously as they could; they put into it four brasiers in which 
they thereupon burned quantities of moss or gum (moque) which 
is the especial incense of these natives, with turpentine and many 
and various other perfumes. At that time the lake was deep 
throughout and navigable for a large boat. On the shore encircling 
it was a multitude of Indian men and women, bedecked with feathers, 
jewelry and crowns of gold, with innumerable fires all around, and 
at the moment when the fumigating began upon the raft the fires 
on shore were lighted, to such an extent that the smoke obscured the 
light of day. At the same time they stripped the heir naked and 
anointed him with a sticky earth and powdered him with gold in dust 
and fine particles until he was entirely covered with the metal. 

" He was then taken upon the raft where preparation had been 
made for him, and at his feet was put a great pile of gold and 
emeralds to be offered to his god. There went with him upon the 
raft a number of the principal chiefs, his subjects, much decorated 
with feathers, gold crowns, bracelets, nose pendants and gold ear- 
rings, each one bearing his offering. 

"As the raft left the shore the cornets, pipes, and other instru- 
ments struck up, along with a shouting and hurrahing of the people, 
until the mountains and valleys resounded with the noise; this 
kept up until the raft reached the middle of the lake, where a flag 
was raised as a signal for silence. The gilded Indian made his offer- 
ing by throwing all the gold that had been placed at his feet, into 
the midst of the lake, and the other caciques that accompanied him 
did the same; on the completion of which, the flag that had been 
kept flying during the^ whole time of the offering, was pulled down, 
and as the raft set out upon its return to the shore, again the 
clamor began ; the pipes and drums, with many of their native dances ; 
with which ceremony they received the newly elected ruler, and 
acclaimed him seignior and prince. From this ceremony came the 
so celebrated name of El Dorado, that has cost so much of life 
and property." * 

* Conquista I Descubrimiento del Nucvo Reino de Granada, Cap. II. 
Fresle was born at Santa Fe de Bogota in 1566. His father was 
killed in one of the Spanish expeditions against the Indians and he 
was taken while a child to Spain. Twelve years later he 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 171 

The name itself and the expeditions in search of El Dorado 
originated in a casual and unimposing incident of the con- 
quest. : 

" This name came, in the first place," continues the historian 
Fresle, " from Peru. Sebastian Benalcazar, having taken Quito, 
fell in with an Indian of Bogota who told him that in his (the Indian's) 
country, when they would make a king, they took him to a large 
lake and there they completely gilded him or covered him with gold, 
and with great festivities made him king. Whereupon Don Sebastian 
exclaimed ' Let us go in search of this Indian dorado. 1 " 

After the fatigues of marching and exposure, the officers 
were ready to indulge in hilarious drinking and revelry, and 
when they found the wandering Indian, no doubt they baited 
him freely. They brought him before Benalcazar and plied 
him with questions concerning portions of the country which 
they had not yet explored. It is a pretty plain inference 
from the accounts of the Spanish conquest that the Indian 
natives soon learned to tell the conquerors such things as 
these wanted to hear, and the narrators were not restrained 
by any scruples about the truth, nor did they take any pains 
to separate knowledge from hearsay. Yet their scruples 
were quite as strong as those of the Spaniards. It is amaz- 
ing how greedily the latter swallowed the tales of the igno- 
rant if not unsophisticated natives. The account of this 
incident with Benalcazar is taken from a volume of elegiacs 
by the early Spanish poet Castellanos.* 

Although some scholars dismiss the story of El Dorado 

returned to America. This would have been about 1584. The con- 
quest of Bogota by Quesada was in 1579. If Fresle received Don 
Juan's narrative within two or three years after his return, say in 1586 
or 1587, the dates would make it possible that the Indian might have 
been a young man of twenty or over at the time of the conquest, 
which would make him between 65 and 70 at the time of the 
narration. It is quite possible, therefore, that the story is really from 
the lips of a contemporary. D. W. H. 

*Elegias de Varones Ilustres de Indias; Parte III, Elegia a Ben- 
alcasar, Canto II. For Juan de Castellanos. 



172 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

as altogether a fable, there is a good deal of evidence in its 
favor. Among articles found in the lake or lagune of 
Siecha, in 1856, was one of gold having a base like a mat 
of rushes, on which was a central figure, surrounded by 
nine others, with various paraphernalia. This has been 
supposed to represent the cacique of the ceremony described. 

In countries further to the north, something of the story 
was known before its telling at Quito, for as early as 1529, 
says Bandelier, in Coro, Venezuela, the Spaniards became 
cognizant of a story that was current among the Indians 
of that section, " of a tribe dwelling in the mountains to the 
south with whom gold was so abundant that they powdered 
the whole body of their chief with it." In that year the 
first formal expedition in search of the gilded man was under- 
taken, by the Governor of Venezuela, a German leader, 
Dalfinger. His campaign was sanguinary and cruel to the 
natives, but he died without succeeding in his search. 

Benalcazar (or Belalcazar), mentioned in the Elegiacs 
of Castellanos, was a leader of Francisco Pizarro's forces 
in the conquest of Peru, who had advanced as far as Quito 
in 1535, when the story of the wandering Indian incited 
him and his soldiers to go in quest of the Dorado. His 
campaign lasted until 1539 and resulted in the conquest 
of Cundinamarca, the province containing the high table- 
land of Bogota in which was the lake of Guatavita, and 
which was the country of the Muyscas. Much booty in 
gold was obtained * but no hombre dorado. The fame of 
the gilded man had spread into other countries occupied 
by the Spaniards and Benalcazar's expedition was hardly 
at an end before another was on foot (in 1541) under 
Gonzalo Pizarro, half brother to Francisco, the leader cele- 
brated for his cruelties as Governor of Peru. 

The story of the gilded man has many variants, most 
of them providing for the removal of the golden garb 
from the body of the chief, either by his plunging into the 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 173 

lake or by some other form of ablution. To Gonzalo 
Pizarro the legend was of " a great prince who was always 
covered -.with powdered gold so that from head to foot he 
resembled a figure of gold wrought by the hand of a most 
beneficent artificer (" una figura d'oro lavorata di mano d'un 
buonissimo orifice"). The powdered gold is fixed on the 
body by means of an odoriferous resin; but this kind of 
garment would be uneasy to him while he slept, the prince 
washes himself every evening, and is gilded anew in the 
morning, which proves that the empire of el Dorado is 
infinitely rich in mines." * It was not long before the 
subject became a breeder of strife among the Spanish 
leaders themselves, who had become crazed by their lust 
for gold ; and when the term " El Dorado " came to signify 
not merely a gilded man, but the country to which he be- 
longed, which was believed to be fabulously rich in gold, 
no doubt wild tales inflamed the minds of the rank and file 
of the armies that went in search of the man or his country, 
and the use of the term in that sense became more common 
than in its proper meaning. 

How many of the tales told by the natives were traps 
to lure the Spaniards to destruction cannot be known. The 
" civilizing " process applied to them by the invaders was not 
of a kind to make them hospitable, and they seemed to 
lose few opportunities to represent to their Spanish friends 
that El Dorado was easy of access and not very remote, 
but in its changing form and ever-shifting locality it be- 
came a phantom which they pursued in vain. 

So far as concerned the discovery of El Dorado, Pizarro's 
expedition was fruitless, and after nearly a year and a half 
of indescribable hardships and privations, the few survivors 
of his army returned to Quito. But they had added much 
to the knowledge of the interior of the country and its re- 
sources. This was the exploration of the land of cinnamon. 

* From a letter of Oviedo to Cardinal Bembo. Humboldt, Personal 
Narrative, Vol. 5, p. 815. 



174 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

f. 
That indeed was the ostensible purpose for which it was 

undertaken, but a letter sent to Spain in 1542 revealed the 
fact that Pizarro had the cinnamon less in mind than a 
gilded uncivilized chieftain. The story as Pizarro had it, 
says Schumacher, was " the first genuine Dorado-legend. 
It runs quite differently from all the Guatavita versions and 
everything connected with them." * This expedition was 
followed by several others from Bogota or other localities 
in the western portion of the continent, until as late as 1579, 
always instigated by some wonderful story by Indians or 
irresponsible travelers, which was usually more or less forti- 
fied by specimens of gold, or natural curiosities. In 1560 
came Orsua's expedition to the Omaguas which Humboldt 
characterized as the most dramatic episode in the history 
of the Spanish conquests. It met the fate of its predecessors 
in failure to find the country of gold, and in loss of life 
and money. 

Undeterred by the record of disastrous attempts to find 
El Dorado, the famous conquistador Ximenes de Quesada 
set out from Bogota in 1579 with a formidable force of 
Spanish soldiers, Indians, negroes, horses and other animals, 
and a full equipment of supplies for a long campaign. It 
was perhaps the most famous of all the expeditions under- 
taken by the Spaniards in this romantic quest and, as in 
the case of its predecessors, after three years of wretched 
experience of almost every form of misery that could 
come from hunger, disease, exposure, and conflicts with 
hostile savages, the broken creatures constituting the rem- 
nant of the army made their way back to Bogota. 

While these efforts of the Spaniards were in progress 
from the west, the story with its magic power was per- 

*/ Dorado; Aus der Geschichte der erst en Amerikanischen 
Entdeckungs-Reisen. Mittheilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft 
in Hamburg. 1889. Schumacher rejects the whole story of El 
Dorado as a fable, and the prince as a myth. 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 175 

meating the northern and eastern districts. In 1584 Antonio 
de Berrio directed an expedition to the valley of Barraguan 
(Orinocb). It failed after three years of hardship, and 
the survivors returned to their homes in New Granada. Soon 
afterwards he renewed the attempt. Berrio was fed to 
repletion with the most extravagant reports, and he was 
confident the Gilded King was in the city of Manoa which 
he thought was located upon a large lake at the upper 
reaches of the Orinoco. The Spaniards were simply crazed 
by the tales of the natives, and enthusiasm ran so high over 
this venture which was under the military leadership of 
Domingo De Vera that, as Dr. Manso says, " Spain was 
El Dorado mad. The craze assumed such proportions that 
an old chronicler avers that it would then have been possible 
to depopulate La Mancha and Estramadura and the King- 
doms of Toledo and Castile." * Money flowed in from 
all sources from the court, from nobles, and from the 
private purses of people in humbler ranks, and De Vera 
sailed from San Lucar in February 1595 with a fleet and 
company twenty times as great as that with which Columbus 
discovered America. They failed miserably, encountering 
incessant disaster from the natives, from disease, and from 
the climate. 

And now, in addition to the long list of celebrated Spanish 
leaders, came an Englishman no less renowned than they 
for his daring, his chivalry, his brilliancy and his polish 
the romantic courtier Sir Walter Raleigh. Of the many 
narratives connected with the search for this elusive country 
of gold, one of the most extraordinary is that of Raleigh's 
discovery of Guiana, and his exploration of the Orinoco 
River, in iS95-t This account gives many details of the 

*"The Quest of El Dorado," Bulletin of the Pan American 
Union, April, 1912. 

t The Discoverie of the large, rich and bewtiful Empire of 
Guiana, etc. Performed in the Yeare 1595, by Sir W. Ralegh. 



176 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

city of Manoa, to which the legend by this time had trans- 
ferred the location of El Dorado. The Hakluyt Society of 
London reprinted the original record of this voyage, with 
a scholarly introduction by the distinguished traveler and 
geographer, Sir Robert Schomburgk. Raleigh's own ac- 
count was so full of improbabilities and extravagances as 
to be greatly discredited from the first, though the expedi- 
tion was wonderful enough to rank high among the great 
achievements of that age of discovery. The parts relating 
to the location of the gilded chief are best told in the words 
of the author of the narrative, and of its editor. Says 
the latter (Schomburgk), 

"When, after fruitless searches in New Granada, the locality of 
the fable was transferred to Guiana, the whole province was desig- 
nated by the name of El Dorado, but the lake or laguna, surrounded 
by auriferous mountains, continued a necessary accompaniment to 
the shifting fable. . . . When, therefore, the attention of adventurers 
was, at the close of the sixteenth century, attracted to Guiana as 
the spot where El Dorado was situated, the name of the river 
Parima * and the inundations of the flat country and savannahs . . . 
gave rise to the fable of the White Sea, or Laguna del Parima or 
Dorado." (Introduction, pp. 50, 51.) 

Says Sir Walter's narrative, "... as I haue beene assured by 
such of the Spanyardes as haue scene Manoa the imperiall Citie of 
Guiana, which the Spanyardes cal el Dorado, that for the greatnes, 
for the riches, and for the excellent seate, it farre exceedeth any 
of the world, at least of so much of the world as is known to the 
Spanish nation, it is founded upon a lake of salt water of 200 
leagues long like vnto mare caspiu" (p. 13). "The first that ever 
saw Manoa was Johannes Martines" (Juan Martinez). 

Then follows a detailed story told by Martynes and said 
to be deposited in the Chauncery of San Juan de Puerto 
Rico, relating how he came to Manoa, his reception there, 
and his way of living for seven months in this wonderful 
city. 

"This Martynes" continues Sir Walter's narrative, "was he 
that christned the citie of Manoa by the name of El Dorado, and as 

* Meaning "great water" Humboldt. 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 177 

Berreo informed me vpon that occasion; ... at the times of their 
solemne feasts when the Emperor carrowseth with his Captayns, 
tributaries, and gouernors ; the manner is thus. All those that pledge 
him are first stripped naked, and their bodyes annointed al ouer with 
a kinde of white Balsamum (by them called Curcai) of which there 
is great plenty and yet very deare amongst them, and it is of al 
other the most pretious, whereof we haue had good experience; 
when they are annointed al ouer, certaine seruants of the Emperor 
hauing prepared gold made into fine powder blow it thorow hollow 
canes upon their naked bodies, vntill they be al shining from the 
foote to the head and in this sort they sit drinking by twenties and 
hundreds and continue in drunkenness sometimes sixe or seuen daies 
togither" (pp. 20, 21). 

This story has been regarded as pure invention, but 
Humboldt (Personal Narrative) thinks there is sufficient 
evidence to show that Martinez had been at Santa Fe de 
Bogota, and learned of the ceremonies at Lake Guatavita, 
from which his fertile brain evolved the wonderful narra- 
tive of Manoa. 

Raleigh's account of his " voyage " contains graphic de- 
scriptions of marvelous creatures animals and birds; 
strangely misshapen, grotesque, human beings; and also 
curious plants, some of which descriptions are true while 
others are repeated from the tales told the voyagers, and 
are the wildest products of imagination. Among other 
wonders he describes warlike women, the American Ama- 
zons, from whom the Amazon River is named. The narra- 
tive has been scored and derided by critics, and Raleigh 
has been ridiculed as the most gullible of men, but it really 
looks as if he knew what he was doing and, having had the 
most outrageous yarns foisted upon him, was resolved to 
show what he himself could do in the same way, and to 
give every narrator " a Roland for his Oliver." A six- 
teenth century Munchausen, antedating the Baron by just 
two hundred years, Raleigh was probably enough of a 
humorist for that, and anyhow, in those days a traveler 
14 



178 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

was accorded as much latitude in his tales as a fisherman 
today. 

This expedition was made in the same year as. that of 
De Vera, mentioned above, and, so far as the golden goal 
was concerned, was as bootless. Raleigh returned to Eng- 
land but clung to his dream of El Dorado. The intrigues 
of politics that kept him a prisoner in the Tower of London 
for twelve years could not extinguish the ardor of his desire 
to discover the city of gold, and in 1617, twenty-one years 
after his first disastrous attempt, he engaged in another and 
final effort futile like all the others, and resulting for him 
only in being charged before the English court with piracy, 
and ignominiously executed. This was the last of what 
might be called major expeditions in the quest of El Dorado, 
though there were many minor ones succeeding as well as 
preceding it. 

Besides the part which this quest has taken in the 
romance of history it has furnished the theme for poetry 
and fiction. It is a delightful subject for romantic liter- 
ature, and one of the best romances of the kind appeared 
recently from the pen of Clifford Smyth.* The author, 
who had been United States Consul at Cartagena, Columbia, 
had inbibed the spirit of the story in its home land, and tells 
it with the skill of a sympathetic master, while the interest 
of the reader is enlisted in advance by a most appreciative 
introduction by Richard Le Gallienne. 

The search for-the gold of this legend nowadays belongs 
with that for Captain Kidd's treasure, the " pieces of eight," 
and the Spanish doubloons; with the cargoes of the pre- 
cious metal that went to the bottom with the plate-fleet 
galleons that were to transport them to the mother country ; 
with all, in short, that goes to make the romantic atmos- 
phere so long associated with the Spanish Main. 
* The Gilded Man. A Romance of the Andes. 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 179 

DR. COOK'S REPUTED ATTAINMENT OF THE NORTH POLE 
With the era of exploration that was ushered in by 
Columbus' first transatlantic voyage began the attempts 
to reach the Pacific Ocean from the Atlantic, or at all 
events to continue around the world, by passing north of 
the American continent instead of coming away to the south, 
around Cape Horn. In geographic parlance the way thus 
sought was called "the northwest passage/' If the great 
arctic ocean was open water, the passage might perchance 
carry the voyager directly over the north pole, and so the 
exploration of those northern waters incidentally involved 
the attainment of the pole. For four hundred years was 
that quest continued, with a marvelous record of endurance, 
skill and heroism ; with meager additions to our ethnographic 
knowledge ; with an actual navigation through a continuous 
northwest passage that is sometimes open, but is not practi- 
cable as a commercial route; and with a diversion of the 
interest in this passage to an ambition to attain the pole 
itself an ambition resting largely upon sentiment, {but 
shared by men of various nationalities. 

" Farthest North " has steadily receded into higher and 
higher latitudes; the arctic regions unvisited have shrunk 
until, in 1881, they lay within a zone that at one point was 
only 6 36' or 396 geographic miles from the pole. This 
point was reached by General Adolphus W. Greely, in an 
expedition of tragic experiences. The expeditions of Robert 
E. Peary, between 1898 and 1906, carried that explorer to 
a point only 169 miles south of the pole. His expedition of 
1908-1909 was the final one, in which, by a dash of 133 
miles from their most northern camp, he and one companion, 
Matt Henson, reached the pole and planted there the stars 
and stripes. 

So the story goes, and national governments and learned 
societies have proclaimed their confidence in Admiral Peary's 
achievement, and have loaded him with honors in recognition 



180 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of it: but interwoven with this story is another story, one 
of the strangest in the annals of geographic discovery, and 
the two make a fabric that is soiled by doubt and suspicion ; 
discolored by charges and countercharges of deception ; and 
stained by reproaches and recriminations. If it is true that 
" nothing is settled until it is settled right," 1 there is needed 
more and better evidence at any rate corroborative evidence 
to settle this controversy than has yet been produced. It is 
that " other story " that we have to tell here. Admiral Peary 
and another explorer were rival claimants to the honor of 
first reaching the pole ; both had partisans, and not a claim 
for credit, not an accusation of misdoing was made from 
either side that did not encounter a "me too" or a tu 
quoque from the other. The dispute went so far as to ques- 
tion not only who first reached the pole, but whether either 
reached it at all. The truth, if it is ever known, will have 
to be drawn from the bottom of a well that is uncommonly 
deep. 

Dr. Frederick A. Cook of Brooklyn, N. Y., had won a 
wide reputation as an explorer by participating in The 
Belgian Antarctic Expedition, 1898-1899; by conducting a 
party in an attempt to reach the summit of Mt. McKinley 
in Alaska in 1903 and again in 1906; and by serving as 
medical officer in Lieutenant Peary's arctic expedition, 
1901-1902. 

On July 3, 1907, he set out upon a trip into northern 
regions from Gloucester, Mass., on a staunch yacht, The 
John R. Bradley. This boat was named in honor of Mr. 
John R. Bradley of New York, who was responsible for its 
outfitting and was sponsor of the trip. The yacht was 
captained by Robert Bartlett, an experienced officer who 
had commanded Peary's ship The Roosevelt in 1906 and in 
1908 again took command of The Roosevelt which had been 
restored after the battering she had undergone, and was 
then to carry Commander Peary and his party on their 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 181 

celebrated final voyage to the pole. On the Bradley Dr. Cook 
was ostensibly a guest of the owner, and the trip was 
ostensibly an excursion in quest of big game in the northern 
part of Greenland. 

In arctic expeditions, the ship never goes as far north as 
her crew. She can only advance through open water and 
is sure to become icebound eventually. The remainder of 
the traveling is over ice, chiefly by sledges. With these 
drawn by the hardy Eskimo dogs, material is transported 
ahead and a camp is established and provisioned ; from this 
another station is fitted out further on and when the last 
feasible camp is thus established, further progress, for a few 
days longer toward the pole, is made by limited parties in 
sledges or on foot. These have to clamber over rough ice, 
and at times encounter leads of open water with ice floes, 
and their progress is very uncertain. Sometimes, when 
they are on a large detached floe, they are carried by it far 
south of the point from which they had set out earlier in 
the day. Carrying enough material for, say, two weeks, 
they may advance for a week and then must return. Some 
days almost no progress is made at times sixty miles may 
be made in a day ; an average of twenty miles a day through 
a period of several weeks is making good speed. The party 
of explorers is always becoming smaller in number, and the 
last spurt is usually made by one or two members, en- 
cumbered by no impedimenta that they dare to dispense with. 

Dr. Cook's Expedition 

The Bradley and her party made their way northward to 
Annooktok, near the well-known Eskimo station Etah, and 
there landed their stores and camp material late in August 
1907, and from there Captain Bartlett and the rest of the 
party except Dr. Cook returned to the States. 

Dr. Cook spent some months at Annooktok in collecting 
dogs, sledges, and native assistants, until February 18, 1908, 



182 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



when he set out with a party of eleven men in all, eleven 
heavily loaded sledges, and one hundred and three dogs. By 
8 



of Dr. COOK and 
COMMANDER PEARY 
COOK'S ROUTE 
PEARY* ROUTE 




60 Longitude W**t 70 from Gr*vwfcb 60 

Map Showing the Disputed Marches of Cook and Peary. 

the middle of March they arrived at the northern end of 
Nansen's Sound, where they established a base camp. (See 
map.) 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 183 

On March i8th, with four picked Eskimos and a con- 
siderable outfit he pushed forward, and in three days, by 
marched of 26, 21, and 16, or in all sixty-three miles, they 
reached Lat. 82 28'. On the 2ist, after sending back two 
of his faithful Eskimos, and retaining two other young men, 
Ah-we-lah and E-took-i-shook, he started upon a sustained, 
direct attempt to reach the pole, 452 miles distant. He had 
with him twenty-six dogs and two sledges, laden with a 
small folding canvas boat, silk tent, sextant, compasses, 
chronometers, pedometer, watch, chart and map materials, 
barometer, thermometers, etc. There is the testimony of 
Mr. Bradley and other credible witnesses that the yacht 
took an equipment of good instruments, and there is no 
reasonable doubt that Dr. Cook took as many of them with 
him as was proper, so that supposedly he lacked nothing 
essential in the last stages of his journey northward. Ac- 
cording to his account, from the 2ist of March his course 
was almost due north on the meridian of about 95 W. On 
March 3Oth he was in Lat. 84 17', Lon. 96 36', having 
made an average progress for nine days of about fifteen miles 
per day; April I4th, Lat. 88 21', Lon. 95 52', averaging 
about eleven miles a day for fifteen days ; April 2ist, Lat. 
89 59' 46" a quarter of a mile to go! having averaged 
about fifteen miles a day during the last week. Within 
all reasonable demand he was then at the pole. It is not 
humanly possible to be certain of the latitude within so small 
a margin of error, and to be at any point within a mile of 
the actual terminus of the earth's axis would readily be 
accepted as reaching it. On the map, the broken line of 
heavy dashes shows the alleged course from Annooktok to 
Nansen's Sound, and thence to the pole itself. The Eskimos, 
says Dr. Cook, were told that they had found the "big 
nail " and were elated. Two days were spent here, taking 
observations and making notes; the American flag was 
raised and photographed, then taken down by the explorer 



184 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

to be brought home with him ; but he placed a smaller flag 
and written memoranda of his achievement in a metal 
cylinder which he buried in the ice and left to an unknown 
fate : to be resurrected, perchance, at some uncertain future 
time; or to be carried by shifting currents to other regions; 
or to sink forever from human sight. 

On April 23d, the three started back for Axel Heiberg 
Land. The return was far more arduous than the advance. 
Fogs and harsh weather made traveling difficult, slow, and 
dangerous ; not until May 24th was the weather clear enough 
to permit noon observation by the sun. They had then 
reached Lat. 84, Lon. 97 W., having come at least 360 
miles in thirty-one days, and were far west of where they 
ought to have been. Not clear as to their course, for 
twenty-one days more through fog, against fatigue, and 
facing famine, they struggled until June I4th when, worn 
out and almost in despair, they reached Amund Ringnes 
Land where, after six more days of hardship, they suc- 
ceeded in killing a bear and a seal, on the 2Oth. 

With only a few remnants of his outfit, with ten scrawny 
dogs, a dilapidated sledge, and a frail, collapsible boat to 
help them over water passages, he and his two companions 
hunted, struggled, and starved as they slowly and painfully 
made their way back. They wintered miserably in a dug- 
out on the shore of Jones Sound, more than a hundred miles 
from Cape Sabine. It was in late April or early May, 1909, 
that, in a last effort, Cook and his companions made a 
spurt that they hoped would bring them to Annooktok. 
Eight miles from that village, out on the ice, he was 
found by Mr. Harry Whitney of New Haven, who had come 
north upon an arctic hunting trip the only white man 
whom he had looked upon for fifteen months. After the 
long arctic night such a night of isolation and privation 
could any man tell a coherent and unimpeachable story of 
his experiences? There are those who doubt the possibility 
of it, much more the probability. 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 185 

The forlorn party were promptly taken to Etah, and Cook 
told Whitney of his success. But he also learned a good 
deal that was disconcerting in regard to the movements of 
Commander Peary. The Roosevelt, bearing the party of the 
latter, had been at Etah, and Peary had installed a portion 
of his men in the camp at Annooktok where Cook had 
left much material. According to Cook's narrative, the in- 
terlopers had made free use of this and had to be ousted by 
him. 

Mr. Whitney expected to rejoin Peary's party on The 
Roosevelt on their return, and Cook asked him to confine 
his account of his (Cook's) achievements to the statement 
by Cook himself that " he had got further north than Peary 
had ever reached in any of his expeditions, and that he 
had accomplished everything he went north for"; a request 
with which Mr. Whitney complied scrupulously. Cook had 
left his instruments and a package of memoranda behind 
on the last day of his march, and Mr. Whitney agreed to 
go for them and bring them home with him, as Cook was 
anxious to press on with no more delay than was absolutely 
necessary. Disappointed in being unable to get a ship at 
Etah, with his two faithful Eskimos he made his way labo- 
riously southward to Upernavik, reaching that place in May 
1909. Here, later in the summer, he boarded the Danish 
mail steamer The Hans Egede, bound for Copenhagen, and 
was happy in the opportunity thus offered him to return 
to civilization. The first port they reached from which 
to send a message was Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, 
where they arrived on September ist, 1909, and from there 
Cook cabled to Copenhagen, announcing his success. The 
news was immediately spread, and the world was thrilled by 
it. 

The Hans Egede reached Copenhagen on September 4th, 
where Dr. Cook was welcomed by representatives of the 
Danish Government, and by the American Minister, Mr. 



186 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

M. F. Egan. His story was unhesitatingly credited, he was 
banqueted and toasted, and congratulations and plaudits 
abounded. 

Commander Peary's Expedition 

While Cook, avoiding publicity, was making his way into 
the arctic regions, The Roosevelt was being overhauled and 
refitted under the auspices of the Peary Arctic Club. Com- 
manded by Robert E. Peary, captained by Robert A. Bart- 
lett, with a select scientific staff, this vessel had set out 
upon what its company all hoped and comfidently expected 
would be a final expedition to the Pole. Nearly every mem- 
ber of the party had shared in one or more arctic voyages, 
and was experienced in this mode of life. The Roosevelt 
reached Etah early in August 1908, and on the 8th of that 
month, following prearranged plans, the expedition left 
there for Cape Sheridan (see map), where they arrived in 
February 1909. This was as far as the ship was to go and 
here, in Lat. 83, Peary made his base camp. 

Having sent Captain Bartlett and others ahead a week 
earlier, Commander Peary left the ship Feb. 22d, with 
two Eskimos, two sledges, and sixteen dogs. There were 
now 7 members of the expedition, 19 Eskimos, 140 dogs, and 
28 sledges "in the field for northern work." All were 
to meet at Cape Columbia, about ninety miles from Cape 
Sheridan, and from there the real push north was to begin. 
After various mishaps and delays, they got away from this 
point March ist. By sledges, with a selected party Peary 
reached Lat. 86 on March 23d, where he crossed his 
track of 1906, and pushing on, by the 28th he was at Lat. 
87 47', Camp Bartlett. At this point, one hundred and 
thirty-three miles from their goal, the Commander sent Cap- 
tain Bartlett and others back to their camp, and himself and 
one companion, the negro Matthew Henson who had long 
been his personal attendant, began their final spurt with four 
Eskimos, two sledges, and forty dogs. Though they were 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 187 

stripped for the running, with difficulty they made from 
fifteen to thirty miles a day, reaching, on April 2d, 88 ; 
April 4th, 89 ; April 6th, THE POLE! A year, lacking 
fifteen days, from the date at which Dr. Cook claimed to have 
stood upon the same spot; but neither Peary nor Henson 
had any suspicion of the cruel irony that lay beneath their 
rejoicing, and that later was to embitter their success. Here 
they remained until the next day, exalting the flag, taking 
observations, and making notes. 

There were no heroics. 

At a complimentary dinner in New York the following 
October, immediately upon the return of the ship's company, 
Henson related that the Commander called him to his side 
and said " Well, what do you think we ought to do next ? 
An' I said, well, now we're here I guess we better see about 
gettin' back ! " Henson was apparently less concerned 
about the nature of their achievement than about the 
practical details of performing it. 

They deposited in the ice a glass bottle containing records 
and a strip of the flag, and set out upon their return April 
7th, and on April 9th they were back at Camp Bartlett, Lat. 
87 47', having come 133 miles in a little more than two days 
or sixty to seventy miles per day, retracing in two days 
the course that had required ten days for the advance. They 
reached Cape Columbia April 23d; and after two more 
" marches " of forty-five miles each, they joined Captain 
Bartlett and the ship at Cape Sheridan. Professor Marvin 
had been drowned when the supporting party were coming 
back after taking leave of Peary and Henson. It was a long 
time before they could take the ship out, but on July i8th, 
they all turned their faces homeward and The Roosevelt 
steamed for Etah, where they arrived on August I7th. 
Here they picked up Mr. Whitney who remained with them 
until they met, near North Star Bay, the Jeanie which had 
been sent north for Whitney and was also bringing coal 



188 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

for The Roosevelt. Whitney transferred to the Jeanie and 
The Roosevelt proceeded on her way southward. While 
at Etah, Whitney told the Peary party of his encounter with 
Dr. Cook, and of his custody of Cook's belongings, but did 
not feel at liberty to say anything more about Cook's move- 
ments than the statement made on p. 185. Although he was 
received as a passenger on The Roosevelt, he was not per- 
mitted to bring back on the ship any of Dr. Cook's things, 
so he cached them in the rocks at Etah. They included 
the flag, some instruments, and memoranda. Cook had 
long before made duplicate notes, and had taken a copy 
of them with him. 

Not until Peary's party came into telegraphic communica- 
tion with the United States, in September, did they learn 
definitely that their attainment of the Pole had been an- 
ticipated in the statements of Dr. Cook. 

They had no opportunity to send their news home until 
September 7th, when they reached Indian Harbor, Lab- 
rador. Peary immediately dispatched a telegram, relayed 
by wireless, to the New York Times: 

" I have the pole, April 6. Expect arrive Chateau Bay, September 
7. Secure control wire for me there and arrange expedite trans- 
mission big story. Peary." 

This was followed by various other stirring messages from 
other members of the party as well as himself. 

And now the story resumes connection with Dr. Cook. 

Immediately upon his arrival at Copenhagen, September 
1909, this explorer had cabled news of his feat to the New 
York Herald, and a special message with the same announce- 
ment to the President, William H. Taft. On the evening 
of the seventh, he was dining with an enthusiastic body of 
newspaper correspondents, university men, and state and 
city officials, when the news of Peary's discovery arrived, 
upon which Dr. Cook expressed especial pleasure, as Peary's 
observations and reports would confirm his own. He came 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 189 

on to New York as early as practicable, and here he was 
received enthusiastically; civic honors were heaped upon 
him, and a great complimentary, banquet was accorded him. 
He was the hero of the hour. He was disappointed and 
chagrined, however, by the refusal of Peary to permit the 
bringing back of his data, and soon became sensible of the 
storm of opposition, censure, and criticism that was brewing. 

The Controversy 

Of all arctic explorers, Commander Peary had been most 
persistent. For more than twenty years he had faced the 
hardships of life in the far north in repeated expeditions, 
undeterred by defeat and undismayed by failure; ever 
advancing beyond former limits, and at last realizing the 
goal of his ambition. Confident that the credit of being 
the very first to reach the apex of the globe was his, it 
was more than galling to find that credit claimed by another. 
Doubt and ill feeling were inevitable. Possibly the honor 
might quietly have rested upon both, but for an intense 
partisanship that at once developed, and controversy grew 
warm as each party accused the other of robbery. Even 
so, a dispute between individuals would not have made so 
much stir as did this if it had been confined to the dis- 
putants, but the press throughout the country took an active 
part in it, lining up on opposite sides, bandying arguments, 
criticism, and jests; never amiable, not often dignified, 
seldom courteous. Of the New York dailies the Herald 
staunchly supported Cook through thick and thin, and the 
Times championed Peary and his claims. With such con- 
testants it became a battle of giants. 

The University of Copenhagen had taken a friendly in- 
terest in Dr. Cook and his work, and he submitted his 
records to the officers of that institution to pass upon his 
claims to the honor of the discovery. Commander Peary's 
were submitted to a special committee of the National 



190 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Geographic Society. Before either of these committees 
made its report, the discussion had gone far away from the 
point in question, which was simply whether either explorer 
reached the pole. The verdict depended, in the case of 
Cook, upon the actual whereabouts of that explorer in 
the few weeks immediately after the twenty-first of March, 
1908, when he reached Lat. 82 28' N. ; in the case of Peary, 
upon his whereabouts during the four weeks following 
March 28, 1909, when he reached Camp Bartlett in Lat. 
87 47' and Captain Bartlett and companions started back 
to the ship. Dr. Cook went somewhere with only two young 
Eskimos for companions; Commander Peary went some- 
where with only Matt Henson and four Eskimos for com- 
panions. Sir Philip Gibbs in The World's Work for March, 
1923, tells how he discovered and exposed the falsity of 
Cook's claims, but throws no light on this particular part 
of Cook's journeying. It is easy to believe that Cook himself 
did not know where he was but he probably knew as 
much about it as anybody else knows. The only reason for 
believing that either explorer reached the Pole is that he said 
he did. There is not now and there never has been any other 
evidence of the fact unless it should be material which they 
left there. The evidence of their geographical position con- 
sists wholly in the observations recorded by each officer ; and 
the account of their doings is given in the diaries of the 
leaders, in Henson's diary, and in the oral testimony of the 
two whites, the black, and the six Eskimos. As no one but 
the two leaders had the means of taking scientific observations, 
even supposing the others had been competent to do so, the 
records of the explorers are the sole evidence of their posi- 
tions. No amount of such evidence, even if it located them 
accurately at the Pole, would prove that they were there, 
and inaccurate observations locating them elsewhere would 
not prove that they had not reached the Pole. A remark- 
able thing about this whole adventure is that, independently 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 191 

of each other, both explorers should have elected to make 
the final reach without a scientific companion and to place 
their stpry before the world uncorroborated. Only corrob- 
orative evidence could be conclusive proof. So the dispute 
soon degenerated into efforts to impugn the honesty of the 
explorers. 

The New York Times produced affidavits ("bought," 
said Cook's defenders) that Cook had engaged two ship's 
officers in Brooklyn to fake records for him of observations 
during the time in question ; Edward Barrill made affidavit 
that he and Cook had not gone to the top of Mt. McKinley 
as Cook had published, though that had no direct relation 
to the North Pole " subornation " was the retort ; the 
two Eskimos Ah-we-lah and E-took-i-shook were brought 
to Washington where they traced on a map the course they 
took when they were with Cook, a course that did not go 
north of 82 48'" a clear case," said Dr. Cook, " of fidelity 
to their promise to me not to tell Peary where they had gone." 
Evidence was brought forward to show that Cook had 
described some places and things differently from the way 
some other traveler had described them, so Cook's state- 
ments were false ! Nothing was omitted that could impeach 
his credibility. 

In reply much of the same sort was uttered regarding 
Peary ; to offset the failure of the Eskimos to support Dr. 
Cook's narrative, it was said that Henson's diary did not 
harmonize with Peary's; there were discrepancies that 
amounted to contradictions ; there was a great deal that was 
directed against the honesty and capability of the explorers 
but had virtually nothing to do with the question at issue. 
The criticisms of the observations themselves showed that 
" expert " testimony was of little more value here than in an 
ordinary court, since it could be arrayed in equal force on 
either side. 

Up to this time the reputations of both men had been 



192 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

untarnished, and both had won many friends and admirers, 
though Peary had been criticized as temperamentally harsh 
and overbearing, while the opposite characteristics in Cook 
attracted friends to him. 

The report of the investigating committee of the Uni- 
versity of Copenhagen was to the effect that 

"The evidence submitted did not contain proof that Dr. Cook 
reached the Pole, nor is there any decisive proof to the contrary." 

This was generally viewed as the only verdict that could 
be expected, though outside offers of proof to that same 
" contrary " were unstinted and cocksure. 

October 20th, 1909, the Committee for the National Geo- 
graphic Society reported: 

" Commander Peary has submitted to this sub-committee his original 
journal and records of observations, together with all his instruments 
and apparatus and certain of the most important of the scientific 
results of his expedition. These have been carefully examined by 
your sub-committee, and they are unanimously of the opinion that 
Commander Peary reached the North Pole on April 6th, 1909." 

They added a special tribute to his skill in organizing and 
conducting the expedition, and declared him " worthy of 
the highest honors that the National Geographic Society can 
bestow on him." The signers of this report constituted the 
committee of investigation and were Henry Gannett, Chair- 
man; Rear Admiral C. M. Chester; and O. H. Tittman, 
Superintendent of the U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. 

Cook's supporters regarded this as a " packed " committee, 
so partial that their verdict was a foregone conclusion re- 
gardless of the evidence that might get before them. The 
investigation and preliminaries upon which the committee 
based their report were ridiculed and belittled sufficiently 
to impair the value of the report. The matter was also 
thrashed out in Congress, where national recognition of 
Peary's claim to honor was discussed. From the testimony 
offered in all these inquiries, and that coming from other 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 193 

sources, it seemed that a considerable proportion of the 
participants in the discussion who had been actual travelers 
and explorers were disposed to accept Cook's record as 
of facts, while much of the criticism unfavorable to him 
was from stay-at-homes, able and learned enough men, per- 
haps, but sneeringly dubbed "arm-chair critics." Among 
arctic and antarctic explorers favoring Cook were General 
A. W. Greely, Admiral W. S. Schley, Captain Evelyn 
Baldwin, Knud Rasmussen, Captain Otto Sverdrup, Captain 
Roald Amundsen all of unimpeachable character and com- 
petency ; and there were not lacking men of science who were 
widely traveled, of large attainments, of high standing, and 
with no axe to grind, who took the same side. Of the above 
named Rasmussen and one or two others subsequently with- 
drew or qualified their indorsement of Cook's claims. There 
were able judges who thought that the Pole was actually 
reached by both explorers, but the acceptance of that idea by 
Peary would have been an acknowledgment that he had been 
anticipated by a year, and would have deprived him of nearly 
all the satisfaction with which he contemplated the fruition 
of his life-long striving. 

The latest evidence bearing directly upon the Cook-Peary 
dispute is a letter written by Donald B. MacMillan to the 
editor of the Geographical Review, from Boston, Mass., 
December 31, 1917. Mr. MacMillan was a member of the 
scientific staff on The Roosevelt, 1908-1909, and subsequently 
(1911-1912) led an expedition to seek for Crocker Land, 
and during a portion of the time had with him the two 
Eskimo boys that had been Cook's companions. According 
to their story, Cook and eight Eskimos camped at the north- 
ern end of Axel Heiberg Island, five miles east of Cape 
Thomas Hubbard. 

"Four Eskimos returned to Etah. Four Eskimos accompanied 
Dr. Cook during the first day's march on the Pojar Sea, a inarch 
of about twelve miles. Upon the completion of the snow-house, 
15 



194 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

two Eskimos returned to land, leaving E-took-a-shoo and Ah-pellah 
('E-tuk-i-shook' and 'Ah-we-lah' in Dr. Cook's book) alone with 
Dr. Cook. 

" Dr Cook and his two Eskimo boys did not proceed beyond this 
point, which is about 500 miles from the pole."* 

Mr. MacMillan's letter further relates in detail the subse- 
quent travels of the Eskimos with Dr. Cook until they got 
back to Etah; and recognizing many of the pictures in Dr. 
Cook's book, they not only denied the legends which the 
photographs bore, but told specifically where they had been 
taken, and what they really depicted flatly contradicting 
Dr. Cook's record. 

In a long list of deservedly famous arctic explorers, Peary 
will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the greatest ; 
Cook, discredited and under a cloud from which he may 
never emerge, can only be vindicated, if at all, by a future 
that holds out but little hope. Probably there are very few 
people who do not wish that Peary's reported discovery of 
the Pole may be true, certainly there are many who believe it 
is a fact, none can know that it is so. If, as both 
Cook and Peary reported, the spot which they lo- 
cated as the pole was on an extended ice-floe, then that 
region is not land but sea; anything deposited there by 
them would be carried by the drifting floe, perhaps many 
leagues, and subsequent navigators who might attain the 
pole would seek for the deposit in vain ; even such material 
which might be conclusive evidence of a positive character 
would have disappeared. On the other hand if it were 
found at the pole it might have drifted there from a point 
far distant. 

SYMMES' THEORY OF CONCENTRIC SPHERES 
Before the frozen barriers of the north had yielded to the 
march of civilization, and more than a score of years before 
* The Geographical Review, February, 1918. 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 195 

arctic exploration had placed its stamp of tragedy upon the 
ill-fated expedition of Sir John Franklin, public curiosity 
concerning polar regions was aroused by the following 

" CIRCULAR. 
Light giveth light to light discover ad ifinitum. 

St. Louis, Missouri Territory, 
North America, 

April 10, A. D. 1818. 
To all the World: 

I declare the earth is hollow, and habitable within; containing a 
number of solid concentric spheres, one within the other, and that 
it is open at the poles twelve or sixteen degrees. I pledge my life 
in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the 
world will support and aid me in the undertaking. 

John Cleve Symmes 
Of Ohio, late Captain of Infantry. 

N. B.I have ready for the press a treatise on the principles of 
matter, wherein I show proof of the above positions. ... I ask one 
hundred brave companions, well equipped, to start from Siberia, in the 
fall season, with reindeer and sleighs, on the ice of the frozen sea; 
I engage we find a warm and rich land, stocked with thrifty 
vegetables and animals, if not men, on reaching one degree northward 
of latitude 82 ; we will return in the succeeding spring. J. C. S." 

This novel theory created much amusement, like that 
which first greeted the idea that the earth was a globe 
with people living on the under as well as the upper side 
of it. The circular was widely distributed throughout the 
world, and " Symmes' Hole " became a byword. The breezi- 
ness and audacity of the announcement gave it a freshness 
that belonged to a new country, for when it appeared, the 
westward course of empire had scarcely passed the Missis- 
sippi, Ohio and Kentucky were still " out west," and Missouri 
had not attained to the dignity of statehood. Its author, John 
Cleve Symmes, Captain in U. S. Army, had served with 
distinction in the war of 1812, retired from the army upon 
its disbandment in 1816, and engaged in business in St. 



196 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Louis, where he began his efforts to establish his Theory 
of Concentric Spheres, Polar Voids, and Open Poles. The 
subject completely obsessed him. The more it was questioned 
the more he cudgeled his brain to give his ideas plausible 
form, until he had evolved an extraordinary plan of the 
structure of the earth in its interior a plan that was 
idealistic in every detail. He lectured extensively and made 
converts who helped to spread his views. Popular enter- 
tainments were held to raise funds in support of the project. 
He petitioned Congress in 1822 and 1823, and the General 
Assembly of the State of Ohio in 1824 for governmental 
support, but in each instance the subject was quietly tabled, 
and nothing further came of it at the hands of legislators. 
Under his arduous labors in traveling and lecturing Captain 
Symmes' health broke down and he returned to his home 
in Hamilton, Ohio, where he died in 1829. 

His theory and the grounds upon which he supported 
it are given in a pamphlet issued in 1878 by his son, 
Americus Symmes. Some of these grounds were pieces 
of information from travelers, of which the accuracy was 
by no means assured but the strongest was the fact that 
the temperature above latitude 82 N. was higher and the 
climate milder than below that latitude. The evidence of 
this in Captain Symmes' day was the statement of Esquimaux 
and arctic explorers that in certain seasons there was abun- 
dance of arctic animals which came from the north, and on 
the approach of sevare weather the arctic animals and fowls 
all migrated northwards. He added to this varied arguments 
based upon the astronomy of that day, which he could 
manipulate in favor of his views, but it was rather slight 
for such an extraordinary geodetic theory. 

"Each sphere has an intermediate cavity or midplane-space . . . 
situated between the convex and concave surfaces of the sphere, filled 
with a very light and elastic fluid. . . . The sphere, in many parts 
of the unfathomable ocean, are believed to be water quite through 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 197 

from the concave or the convex surface to the great mid-plane space, 
and probably the earthy or solid matter of the sphere may in many 
places extend quite through from one surface to the other; tending 
like ribs or braces to support the sphere in its proper form. . . ," 
(Pamphlet cit.) 




The Earth a* a Hollow Globe. 

The above illustration, which accompanied the pamphlet 
just cited, shows only one such spherical shell. An adden- 
dum to the body of the pamphlet, dated Sept. 23, 1880, 
recounts statements by the Swedish Professor Norpensjould, 
who made several northern expeditions under the auspices 
of the Swedish Government ; by an English Captain Wiggins 
who was accompanied by a Mr. Seebohm; and by an Ameri- 
can whaler Captain Tuttle. These all traveled in this warm 
northern country which they supposed was Siberia, though 
though they had no knowledge of what the limits of Siberia 



198 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

were. Mr. Symmes here speaks of it as " Symmzonia." 
But they all testified to the fact of a country and inhabitants 
such as Captain Symmes had declared to be in existence. 
They did this circumstantially, in detail, independently of 
one another, and each without any knowledge of the others 
(except that Captain Wiggins and Mr. Seebohm traveled 
together), and without any of them having ever heard of 
Captain Symmes' theory. Who can tell what fancies will 
spring from the brain of a whaling master and his mates 
as they sit around an ill-smelling stove in a close cabin, and 
spin yarns that never grow less with the telling? It all 
sounds like the exploits of Marco Polo or even of some 
recent explorers. 

REFERENCES 

The Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres. Louisville, 1878. 
(Pamphlet by Americus Symmes, No. 15 in a collection 
hound up under the title " Paradoxes " in New York Public 
Library. D. W. H.) 

The Gilded Man (El Dorado). By Adolphe F. A. Bandelier, 
New York, 1893. 

El Carnero de Bogota. Conquista I Descubrimiento del Nuevo 
Reino de Granada de las Indias Occidentales del Mar 
Oceano . . . Cuentas en ella su descubrimiento algunas 
guerras civiles que habia entre sus naturales ; sus costumbres 
i jente, i de que procedio este nombre tan celebrado Del 
Dorado. Compuesto por Juan Rodriguez Fresle, Natural 
de esta ciudad (Santa Fe de Bogota) . . . cuyo padre 
fue de los primeras pobladores i conquistadores de este 
Nuevo Reino. Imprenta de Pizano I Perez, Bogota, 1859. 

Bulletin of the Pan-American Union, Vol. XXXIV, January- 
June 1912. Washington, D. C. 

The Discover ie of the large rich and bewtiful Empire of 
Guiana, with a relation of the great and Golden City of 
Manoa (which the Spaniards call El Dorado) Performed 
in the yeare 1595, by Sir W. Ralegh, Knight. . . . Imprinted 
at London by Robert Robinson, 1596. 

Reprinted for the Hakluyt Society (Vol. 3), London, 
MDCCCXLVII. 

Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the 



GEOGRAPHIC MANIA 199 

New Continent. By Alexander de Humboldt and Aime 
Bonpland. Written in French by Alexander de Humboldt 
and translated into English by Helen Maria Williams. In 
seven volumes. Vol. V, Part II. London, 1821. 

(The latter portion of Vol. V, Bk. VIII deals with El 
Dorado. D. W. H.) 

Elegias de Varones I lust res de Indias: Part III, Elegia a 
Benalcazar, Canto II, por Juan de Castellanos. Madrid, 1847. 

Has the North Pole Been Discovered? An Analytical and 
Synthetical Review of the Published Narratives of the 
Two Arctic Explorers Dr. Frederick A. Cook and Civil 
Engineer Robert E. Peary, U. S. N. Also a Review of the 
Action of the U. S. Government. By Thomas F. Hall. 
Boston, 1917. 

My Attainment of the Pole. Being the Record of the Expedition 
that First Reached the Boreal Center 1907-1909. With the 
Final Summary of the Polar Controversy. By Dr. Frederick 
A. Cook. New York, 1911. 

New York Herald and New York Times for September and 
October, 1009. (Herald contains Cook's complete story, 
written immediately upon his return to the United States.) 

Hampton's Magazine for 1910. New York, 1910 (Contains 
Peary's complete story, written by him immediately upon 
his return to the United States). 



HOAXES 

" Hoax humorous or mischievous deception " (Ox- 
ford Dictionary). Hoaxes, often silly and puerile, have 
sometimes risen to a dignity to command the attention of 
large classes of educated people, and have been audacious 
and clever enough to impose upon them. The imposture 
frequently takes the character of a posthumous work of 
some recognized genius in art, science or letters, which has 
been unearthed in some simple but unexpected manner, and 
presented by its real author who poses usually as the dis- 
coverer. Sometimes it is nothing worse than a practical 
joke perpetrated with no especial reference to pecuniary 
profit or to injury to the public ; in other cases these results 
are the direct aim of the perpetrator. 

The opportunity to arouse public interest by a faked 
account of some marvelous achievement is still attractive 
to journalists. The popular journal Flying (New York) 
for August 1918 contained such a narrative by Alfred E. 
Poor, of a flight across the Atlantic, said to have been made 
in an aeroplane July 28 and 29, 1918. The account is 
circumstantial, with several pictorial illustrations, a chart of 
the route traversed, Navigator's Log, and numerous details. 
The flight was from Harbor Grace, N. F., Sunday, July 
28, 1918, 7 h. 02 min. ; to Dingle Bay, Ireland, Monday, 
July 29, 1918, 7 h. 12 min.; time of flight, 24 hours, 10 
minutes. The story immediately excited great interest, but the 
facilities for communication nowadays by telegraph, tele- 
phone, and wireless are too great for such news to mislead 
anybody very long, and the editors promptly confessed that 
the account was a hoax, admirably done, and they hoped 
the immediate effect would be to stimulate the efforts to 
make a real attempt at crossing the Atlantic by air flight. 

201 



202 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

In fact a real attempt was successful less than a year 
after the date of the pretended one. 

THE MOON HOAX 

In science, one of the most remarkable deceptions was The 
Moon Hoax, appearing in the New York daily newspaper 
The Sun in 1835. It was a leading feature, filling two or 
three columns of the paper daily from August 25 to August 
31, and was written by one of that newspaper's reporters, 
Richard Adams Locke. It was developed in accordance 
with a deliberate plan of its author and Mr. Day, the 
the proprietor and founder of The Sun, as itemized below. 
It w*s much easier in those days than now to sustain mis- 
information from or concerning remote parts of the world. 

Item i: The basis for this deception lay in the Edinburgh 
New Philosophical Journal in Mr. Locke's possession, one 
number of which, in 1826, contained an article by Dr. Thomas 
Dick suggesting a scheme of communication between the in- 
habitants of the earth and those of the moon. Dr. Dick 
afterward explained that he did not seriously entertain such 
ideas as feasible, but that he meant to satirize certain German 
astronomers who were given to vagaries no less absurd. 

Item 2: The distinguished English astronomer Sir John 
F. W. Herschel was noted for having made great advances 
in the construction of astronomical telescopes, and had 
established an observatory near Cape Town, Africa, in 1834. 

Item j: On Friday, Aug. 21, 1835, there appeared in 
The Sun a brief paragraph purporting to quote from the 
Edinburgh C our ant an announcement of remarkable 
CELESTIAL DISCOVERIES made by Sir John Herschel at the 
Cape of Good Hope, and on Tuesday, Aug. 25, appeared a 
startling three-column account of some of these discoveries 
under the head lines 



HOAXES 203 

GREAT ASTRONOMICAL DISCOVERIES 

Lately Made 

:BY SIR JOHN HERSCHEL, LL.D., F. R. S., &c. 
At the Cape of Good Hope. 

(From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science) 

Note that this account is credited to the Edinburgh Journal 
of Science which had ceased to exist several years earlier, 
and had been succeeded by the Edinburgh New Philosophical 
Journal, in which Dr. Dick's article had appeared. Further- 
more the account was taken, not from the main Journal of 
Science, but from a " Supplement." The readers were 
treated to half a column of grandiloquence and then to a 
circumstantial and detailed account of discoveries upon the 
moon and of the specially constructed apparatus by means 
of which they were made. 

Item 4: The defunct Journal of Science explains that it 
received its information from "Dr. Andrew Grant, the 
pupil of the elder and for several years past the inseperable 
(sic) coadjutor of the younger Herschel." Apparently Dr. 
Grant brought back a great deal of material from the Cape. 
According to the Journal, " Engravings of lunar animals 
and other objects . . . are accurate copies of drawings taken 
in the observatory," which are variously stated to have been 
made there by Herbert Home, Esq., by Dr. Grant, and 
by Dr. Herschel himself. As a fact Mr. Locke improvised 
sketches and descriptions from which drawings were pre- 
pared by a firm of lithographers in New York. At times 
the solemn, awe-inspired tone of the writing is meant to be 
very impressive. The accounts of scenery, of land and 
water formations, of animal life on the planet, gain veri- 
similitude by the pains which the author takes to explain how 
it is that these discoveries are just then being made known, 
and why the information has come in a roundabout way. 

Item 5: This plausibility is heightened by including in 
the narrative other incidents connected with the expedition, 



204 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

such as the imminent destruction of the observatory. " So 
fierce was the concentration of the solar rays through the 
gigantic lens that a clump of trees standing in a line with 
them was set on fire, and the plaster of the observatory walls 
all round the orifice was vitrified to blue glass." It would 
have required no exceptional acquaintance with optics, even 
at that time, to know that something more than a large 
lens would have to be invented to make the focus of the 
solar rays extend from the wall of the observatory to and 
along a line of trees some distance away. That was " depth 
of focus " with a vengeance. In the period when the moon 
was not visible "Dr. Herschel directed his inquiries to the 
primary planets of the system, and first to the planet 
Saturn." After some elaborate description the narrative 
says " Having ascertained the mean density of the rings as 
compared with the density of the planet, Sir John Herschel 
has been enabled to effect the following beautiful demon- 
stration. (Which we omit as too mathematical for popular 
Comprehension. Ed. Sun.} \ " Touches like this give an 
exquisite finish to the whole story. The public, mystified 
as they were by it all, found especial amusement in the 
chagrin of The Sun's rivals over its sudden leap into popu- 
larity. It is interesting to see the curious ways in which, 
in commenting on The Sun's story, the other papers " hedge " 
to save their credit if they should doubt what might prove 
to be true or accept what might turn out to be false. Perhaps 
the most refreshing* was the New York Evening Post 
(edited at that time by William Cullen Bryant and Fitz- 
Greene Halleck). 

" It is quite proper/' says The Post, " that the Sun should be the 
means of shedding so much light on the Moon. That there should be 
winged people in the Moon does not strike us as more wonderful 
than the existence of such a race of beings on earth; and that 
there does or did exist such a race rests on the evidence of that 
most veracious and circumstantial of chroniclers, Peter Wilkins, 



HOAXES 205 

whose celebrated work not only gives an account of the general 
appearance and habits of a most interesting tribe of flying Indians, 
but also of those more delicate and engaging traits which the 
author was enabled to discover by reason of the conjugal relations 
he entered into with one of the females of the winged tribe." 

And there you are! The Sun is not the only paper that 
knows about natural wonders, and the reader may decide 
for himself how far he will take the Post's utterances 
seriously and how far as banter. 

While the story in The Sun was still attracting general 
attention the Journal of Commerce decided to reprint it and 
a reporter, Finn, of the Journal, mentioned the fact to Locke 
of The Sun. Locke advised Finn not to print it right away ; 
that he had written it himself and the secret was out. 
Locke afterwards protested that he had never intended the 
story as a hoax but as a satire. If this was a fact he fell into 
the same pit with Dr. Dick of the New Philosophical Journal 
aforementioned. " It is quite evident/' said Locke, " that 
it is an abortive satire; and I am the best self-hoaxed man 
in the whole community" (from O'Brien's " The Story of 
The Sun"). The showmen of the day took it up and 
exhibited it as a diorama, the precursor of the modern 
" movie," and spectacular stage versions were given. 

Years afterward there was some discussion as to whether 
Locke was indebted to any considerable extent to the French 
astronomer Jean Nicolas Nicollet for the technical details, 
but in the main he is accredited with the conception and the 
execution of the hoax. 

At the very time of its appearance Edgar Allan Poe 
was engaged upon an ambitious moon-story, Hans Pfaal, 
which was also known as The Balloon Hoax, and one in- 
stalment of which had already been published; but the 
success of Locke's story virtually canceled Poe's and caused 
its abandonment. 



206 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

THE CARDIFF GIANT 

On the ninth of October 1869, several workmen employed 
by a Mr. Newell to dig a well on" his farm near th village 
of Cardiff in Onondaga County, New York State, came 
upon a large stone or boulder which, on further excavating, 
proved to be a huge figure of a man, lying on his side and 
distorted in his limbs as if in pain. The figure, which was 
of gigantic size, was carefully exhumed, astonishing the 
onlookers as its shape and porportions were revealed, and 
the news of its discovery was speedily bruited about the 
neighborhood. Crowds flocked to the place to see it, and 
tales about it grew marvelously. Mr. Newell placed it under 
shelter and soon did a thriving business by charging an 
admission fee upon those who came to view it. Then, as 
the whole affair was inexplicable, scholars, invited and un- 
invited, appeared on the scene; and still the wonder grew, 
and while the wonder lasted it was a money maker. The 
stone figure, which had already become widely known as 
" The Cardiff Giant," was taken to New York, Boston, and 
other places for public exhibition, and discussions and 
arguments concerning its origin and character rapidly in- 
creased in number and acerbity. The illustration is taken 
from one of the exhibition circulars. The English of this 
circular is as distorted and as wonderful as the sculptured 
figure of the giant. It says " Distinguished men in all de- 
partments of science have journeyed from far and near to ex- 
amine, wonder and theorize over it ; among them such names 
as. . . ." (Here follows a list of names of eminent scholars, 
including among them the name of President White of 
Cornell University.) While the circular does not say ex- 
plicitly that these men endorsed the claims made by the ex- 
hibitors, or vouched for the antiquity or the genuineness 
of the object, it cunningly implies their approval. It cites 
the endorsement of the State Geologist, James Hall, whom 



HOAXES 207 

it pronounces " the associate and correspondent and peer 
of LYELL, and LOGAN, and (sic) AGAZZIS!" In reality, 
Professor Hall's endorsement was very faint, and President 
White was unequivocal in his disbelief and unsparing in 
his condemnation of it as a fraud. A summary of the 
hoax and its exposure was written by him and published 
in the Century Magazine for October 1902, thirty years 
later. 




The figure was as good as meat and drink to biblical 
enthusiasts who inclined to the theory that it was a petri- 
fied man, proving the existence of giants in old times ; while 
paleontologists were concerned to know whether it was 
old at all. An account of the affair, entitled " The Cardiff 
Giant and Other Frauds, by G. A. Stockwell, M. D.," was 
published in the Popular Science Monthly for June 1878. 
From this we learn that the hoax originated with one George 
Hull of Binghampton, N. Y., in 1868. He prevailed upon 
his brother-in-law Newell to collaborate with him in his 
scheme. 

From President White's article, cited above, we learn 
that 

" The figure was made at Fort Dodge, in Iowa, of a great block 
of gypsum there found; that this block was transported by land to 
the nearest railway station, Boone, about forty-five miles distant; 
that on the way the wagon conveying it broke down, and that, as 
no other could be found strong enough to bear the whole weight, 
a portion of the block was cut off; that, thus diminished, it was 



208 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

taken to Chicago, where a German stone carver gave it final shape; 
that, as it had been shortened, he was obliged to draw up the lower 
limbs, thus giving it a strikingly contracted and agonized appearance ; 
that the under side of the figure was grooved and chann'eled that 
it should appear to be wasted by age; that it was then dotted or 
pitted over with minute pores by means of a leaden mallet faced 
with steel needles; that it was stained with some preparation which 
gave it an appearance of great age; that it was then shipped to a 
place near Binghampton, New York, and finally brought to Cardiff, 
and there buried," in 1868. 

Just about a year later it was exhumed as related above. 
Although the secret had been well kept it gradually came out. 
Professor Marsh of Yale exposed the fraud on scientific 
grounds, and the participants in it, though foxy, were run to 
earth and eventually gave out the complete story, even Hull 
himself glorying in the extent to which he had befooled sci- 
entific professors, clergymen, and laymen, meanwhile lining 
his pockets with money. 

Other measures that were taken to secure the success of 
the deception are recounted. 

Like the huntsman who aims to hit his quarry if it is 
a deer and miss if it is a man, the sculptor so wrought 
this figure as to leave it open to interpretation as a petrified 
man or as an ancient monumental statue. And precisely 
this double interpretation was made, dividing the critics 
into two camps and increasing the interest of the public 
which, naturally, took sides in this controversy, and thus 
tacitly accepted the figure itself as unquestionably antique. 

Dr. White's account shows admirably the state of mind 
into which a credulous public falls, when it has an opportu- 
nity to indulge craving for the marvelous or the myste- 
rious. This was another instance of that perverse psychology 
that earlier sustained the Redheffer perpetual motion fraud, 
and later reveled in the mystery that enveloped the Keely 
Motor. In each case the masses hugged a delusion. The 
perpetrators of the hoax were not " square/' but they were 



HOAXES 209 

quite clear as to what they were about it was the public 
that went astray; they departed from the normal further 
than did the people who engineered the fraud. 

REFERENCES 

The Sun. New York, August 21-25, 1835. 

The Story of The Sun. Frank M. O'Brien. The Moon Hoax. 
New York, 1918. 

Prehistoric Man. Volume of pamphlets in New York Public 
Library ; Pamphlet No. 6, The Cardiff Giant Now Exhibiting 
at Apollo Hall. New York (about) 1870. 

An English Garner. Ingatherings from our History and Litera- 
ture. Vols. 6, 7. London, 1877. 



PROPHECIES 

Prophets are dreamers more or less secluded if not soli- 
tary, reflective, morbid perhaps visionaries, to a degree 
mystics, in a sense poets they relieve their overwrought 
fancy in figures of speech or in tales of lurid visions. 
When such an one gets a crotchet in his brain it fills his 
thoughts by day, and haunts his dreams by night. In 
time, prophesying becomes a habit with him, or even a 
business. At all periods and among all peoples there are 
men and women who profess to find in existing conditions 
of society such conditions, for example, as warfare, ques- 
tionable morality, religious dissensions, conditions of any kind 
affecting the well-being of Humanity to find in them the 
fulfilment of some prophecy either on record or trans- 
mitted by tradition. Especially has this been the case with 
Bible prophecies, and we have not yet reached the end of 
interpretations of the prophet Daniel. 

We shall confine our attention to prophecies concerning 
science or resting upon a supposedly scientific basis. These 
include predictions by astrology, weather predictions and 
some features of divination already discussed under that 
particular head. 

If one claims to have some scientific basis for his state- 
ments, or if he claims some occult or at least extraordinary 
power of divination, He will be heard with more confidence 
than if he admits that he is guessing. It does not matter 
how startling his pretension to special knowledge may 
be, or how completely it contravenes well-established opinion, 
or how absurd it may appear, the fact that it sometimes 
turns out correct is evidence there is " something in it," 
and that is enough for the charlatan to go to work with. 
It is astonishing how few successes will suffice to counter- 

210 



PROPHECIES 211 

balance innumerable failures. It is almost impossible to 
miss if the prophet is wisely vague in expressing himself. 
Dubious or equivocal language is the hall-mark of nearly 
all fortune telling, clairvoyance, communication with spirits, 
or other occult performances, and with that qualification, 
any prediction will be realized somewhere completely enough 
to start or to continue the predicter upon a career as a 
prophet. 

The claimants of special powers in prognosticating be- 
come more insistent upon their claims when their scheme 
has been put upon an orderly, systematic basis. This was 
preeminently the case with astrology, and later it became 
so with respect to the weather and anybody can devise a 
system of astrology or of weather forecasting for himself 
and safely act upon it. It is not at all necessary that there 
should be a real scientific connection between celestial posi- 
tions and terrestrial conditions; just assume such connec- 
tion and then build a system upon the assumption. The 
fact that some instances have occurred and do occur in 
agreement with the system will justify it. 

Weather prophets have a better substratum on which 
to erect a structure of predictions, but it will be found that 
in the most acceptable weather prophecies the plan is more 
impressive if it contains a mixture of astral and planetary 
influence upon the state of the weather. There is still 
a great deal of astrological, especially zodiacal, superstition 
in weather tokens. Surely the sun, possibly the moon, does 
influence the state of the weather on the earth, but to 
the ignorant follower of signs the crescent moon with its 
horns up, y, indicates dry weather for in this position the 
moon retains the water, while if the horns are turned down, 
O the water spills out and rainy weather ensues, and that 
is just as good, to him, as real science. 

The practice of astrology and other artificial schemes 



212 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of divination are considered under their proper heads (pp. 
18, 125) ; apart from those, actual science has engaged 
but little in prophesying; generally it confines itself to ex- 
pecting or at most to hoping. Recently, however, the public 
was keyed up to a pretty high pitch of interest by a por- 
tentous arrangement of the bodies in the solar system. 

Earth 



Sun 
Uranus Venus Saturn 



Mercury Mars Jupiter Neptune 

Professor Porta, an astronomer, ventured to predict for 
the earth dire calamity if not actual destruction about the 
seventeenth of December, 1919, owing to the fact that at 
that date all the planets except the earth would be in a line 
with the Sun, with Uranus on the opposite side of the Sun 
from the others, the direction from the sun to the earth 
being approximately at right angles to the line of the planets. 
This position was expected to cause great disturbance in 
the Sun's atmosphere, and this, in turn, was to react upon 
the Earth in disastrous electric or other storms. The day 
came and went, and so did the planets, but neither the 
earth nor the people on it seemed any the worse for the 
unusual conjunction of the heavenly bodies. 

Scholars have usually endeavored to avoid any unnecessary 
mixing of their scientific theories with their religious con- 
victions, but it seems as if every additional glimpse that sci- 
ence succeeds in getting into hitherto unexplored or unknown 
domains stimulates the belief that we may yet find a means 
to communicate with the spirits of the dead, and learn 
something of the world of spirits (which is not necessarily 
the same thing as the spiritual world). As a rule, this 
belief has not been expressed as anything more than a 
possibility by scientific observers, but physicists have not 
infrequently passed to spiritualism or at all events to 



PROPHECIES 213 

transcendentalism, and of late eminent men of that class 
have declared their conviction of its reality. 

In respect to prophecy the philosophy of the seventeenth 
century is about as good as that of the twentieth. Sir 
Francis Bacon recounts several remarkable instances of 
discoveries or national crises foreshadowed in dreams, which 
became prophecies when " interpreted." 

We proceed to the consideration of a noted instance of 
the kind that he says " have been impostures, and by idle 
and crafty brains, merely contrived and feigned, after the 
event passed." (Bacon's Essays Of Prophecies.) 

MOTHER SHIPTON'S PROPHECY 

There is little real knowledge to substantiate the ex- 
istence of a Mother Shipton; the deeper one dives into the 
records the more he is inclined to repudiate her outright 
as a personage, but her name and character are interwoven 
with so much of legend and tradition that she is a familiar 
figure like William Tell or other legendary heroes. Her 
story first appears to have acquired a permanent status 
in a History of the Life and Prophecies of Mother Shipton 
by Richard Head, published in 1641, and it continued to 
accumulate mosses for more that two and a half centuries. 
The illustration is from a woodcut, the original of which 
is in one of the rarest editions of the Prophecies of Mother 
Shipton, printed in 1662. It represents her showing York 
Minster to Cardinal Wolsey on the top of a tower, 
and the Cardinal vowing vengeance against the witch who 
had prophesied that he should never get there. On the 
presentation of the picture to the British Archaeological 
Association, members called attention to the facts that proph- 
ecies in the middle ages were used as political instruments, 
and were abundant in times of political excitement. They 
became so troublesome that laws were enacted against them. 
" They were published under feigned names, generally those 
16 



214 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



of some celebrated magicians or witches, and Mother Ship- 
ton was one of these, and the older prophecies which go 
under her name appear to have been published about the 
reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547), when, according to the 
popular legend, she is said to have lived. This legend ap- 
pears to have been published in the seventeenth century." 
(Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 
MDCCCLXXIII.) 




Mother Shipton Admonishing Cardinal Wolsey. (From an old print.) 
(Courtesy of the British Archaeological Association.) 

In the illustration, " Bell, Book and Candle " are all in 
evidence to exorcise the witch and protect his Eminence 
the Cardinal from her uncanny powers. 

Of course the protraits are caricatures, but it is singular 
that the dame's headgear should differ so greatly from 
the conventional peaked hat that distinctly characterized the 
English witches of that day. The best account of her is 
given in a fictitious biography, published in London with- 



PROPHECIES 215 

out date, but probably 1872 (certainly later that 1871), 
made up from earlier publications. According to this she 
was born July 1488, near Knaresborough, was baptized by 
the Abbott of Beverly as Ursula Sonthiel; at 24, married 
Tony Shipton of Skipton ; after achieving a wide reputation 
as a necromancer and prophetess, died at Qifton in 
1561.* Most of the prophecies ascribed to Mother Ship- 
ton are of a political or personal character, and do not con- 
cern us here, but the particular one which in later times 
has been most commonly thought of in connection with her 
name is a piece of doggerel predicting various occurrences, 
many of which are scientific in their nature. This first 
appeared as one of her prophecies in a version of Head's 
Life reprinted by Charles Hindley in 1862. The portion 
of this famous production that is most frequently quoted, 
beginning " Carriages without horses shall go," and conclud- 
ing " The world to an end shall come, in eighteen hundred 
and eighty one," is only a part of the original which is here 
given in full: 

" Over a wild and stormy sea 
Shall a noble sail, 
Who to find, will not fail 
A new and fair countree. 
From whence he shall bring, 
A herb and a root 
That all men shall suit, 
And please both the ploughman and the king; 
And let them take no more than measure, 
Both shall have the even pleasure, 
In the belly and the brain. 
Carriages without horses shall go, 
And accidents fill the world with woe. 
Primrose Hill in London shall be 
And in its centre a Bishop's See. 

* The Life and Prophecies of Mother Shipton. Mother Shipton's 
Wonderful Prophecies. Illustrated London. Also see Dictionary 
of National Biography. 



216 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Around the world thoughts shall fly 
In the twinkling of an eye. 
Waters shall yet more wonders do 
How strange, yet shall be true, 
The world upside down shall be, 
And gold found at the root of a tree. 
Through hills men shall ride 
And no horse or ass by their side, 
Under water men shall walk, 
Shall ride, shall sleep, and talk; 
In the air men shall be seen, 
In white, in black, and in green. 
A great man shall come and go- 
Three times shall lovely France 
Be led to play a bloody dance; 
Before her people shall be free 
Three tyrant rulers shall she see, 
Three times the people's hope is gone, 
Three rulers in succession see, 
Each springing from different dynasty. 
Then shall the worser fight be done, 
England and France shall be as one. 
The British Olive next shall twine 
In marriage with the German vine. 
Men shall walk over rivers and under rivers. 
Iron in the water shall float, 
As easy as a wooden boat; 
Gold shall be found, and found (shown?)* 
In a land that's not now known. 
Fire and water shall more wonders do, 
England shall at last admit a Jew; (foe?)* 
The Jew that was held in scorn 
Shall of & Christian be born and born. 
A house of glass shall come to pass 
In England, but alas ! 
War will follow with the work, 
In the land of the Pagan and Turk, 
And state and state in fierce strife, 
Will seek each other's life. 
But when the North shall divide the South 
An eagle shall build in the lion's mouth. 
Taxes for blood and for war, 
* Versions differ. 



PROPHECIES 217 

Will come to every door. 

AH England's sons that plough the land, 

Shall be seen, book in hand; 

Learning shall so ebb and flow, 

The poor shall most learning know. 

Waters shall flow where corn shall grow, 

Corn shall grow where waters doth flow. 

Houses shall appear in the vales below, 

And covered by hail and snow; 

The world then to an end shall come 

In Eighteen Hundred and Eighty One." 

Such a prophecy really emanating from a soothsayer in 
the sixteenth century might well amaze a reader of it in the 
nineteenth century, but if the reader were skeptical as to 
the genuineness of the production, it would seem plain to 
him that the writer of it had coolly set himself to indicate 
in a quaint and bungling fashion a string of events that 
he could pick out of a schoolboy's History of England. At 
least twenty-nine different predictions are made, of some 
of which the purport is obvious, while others have been 
thought to refer to events so obscure or of so little con- 
sequence that their very appearance in the prophecy is 
ridiculous. The steam locomotive was supposed to be the 
realization of one of the predictions (that of the horseless 
vehicles) ; next, this was thought to refer to the electric 
car ; with the coming of the bicycle both the steam and the 
electric carriage gave place to it in the interpretation of the 
prophecy ; but the very general use of the automobile would 
make it evident that this was the mode of locomotion con- 
templated if it were not for the last couplet, by which the 
world was to end before the arrival of the auto. It seems 
a pity that the date of the final catastrophe was not set a 
few decades later than eighteen hundred and eighty-one, 
since much of the prophecy applies better to the world war 
of 1914-1918 than to earlier occurrences, but when the year 
"Eighteen Hundred and Eighty One" passed without so 



218 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

much as a ripple on the surface of the world's affairs, this 
famous prophecy lost all claim to credence. It was really 
not necessary to wait so long before abandoning faith in 
it, for in 1873, the editor of Notes and Queries, in Notices 
to Correspondents, says " Mr. Charles Hindley of Brighton, 
in a letter to us, has made a clean breast of having fabri- 
cated the Prophecy quoted at page 450 of our last volume " 
(about one third of the above), "with some ten others in- 
cluded in his reprint of a chap-book version, published in 
1862."* It was thus officially put to death in 1873, and 
has of necessity been dead since 1881, but its ghost still 
walks. It was a double duplicity a piece of invention 
foisted by its author upon a prophetess whose own existence 
was shadowy if not mythical. 

WEATHER SIGNS AND WEATHER LORE 

Perhaps more than any other one thing the weather 
affects our physical comfort and influences our daily move- 
ments. It is a synonym for fickleness, and its uncertainty 
coupled with its importance has kept mankind on the alert 
to recognize signs that presage a change. 

All peoples, from the most ignorant tribe of savages to 
the most enlightened nation, have weather signs, many of 
which are mere superstition, but a considerable proportion 
are indications in a large and rather indefinite form of 
what suitable instruments would show more precisely. They 
are the result of experience, gained from observation, and 
are sound in the main, although the observers do not know 
why the " signs " should signify either foul or fair weather. 

It is not at all uncommon to hear the prediction that the 
coming winter will be very cold because the summer just 
passed was very hot, or vice versa; it doesn't matter which 
order is the approved one in either one there seems to be 
no way to end the sequence it inevitably recalls the per- 

* Notes and Queries, 4th Series, Vol. XI, 355; Apr. 26, 1873. 



PROPHECIES 219 

plexing question as to the precedence of the chick or the 
egg. When squirrels garner an unusual supply of nuts or 
animals acquire an exceptionally warm coat of wool or fur 
as if, in some mysterious way, they divined the approach of a 
harsh season and made especial preparation for it, such prep- 
aration has been thought to anticipate a severe winter. 
Similarly there are signs that are thought to indicate the 
coming of an unusually hot summer. It it for naturalists 
to say how far such indications may be trusted, and they 
generally dismiss them as of little importance. 

A century ago, in a historical outline of attempts at long 
range weather forecasting, a writer traced evidences of efforts 
to answer the question why the weather and consequently 
the fruitfulness of one year is not like that of another 
in early Chinese, Chaldean, Arab, Egyptian, Greek, and 
Latin records.* All these attempts, at least up to the 
seventeenth century A.D., and in great measure for more 
than a century later, depended upon astronomical observation 
and astrological deduction and interpretation. The predic- 
tions were most often "seasonal," such as "The prevalent 
weather at the time the sun enters the sign of Aries will 
prevail also during the autumn months" (Reymann, 1530). 
It was the discovery and use of the barometer by Torricelli 
in 1643 that gave a new turn to atmospheric physics. The 
development of meteorology that immediately ensued was 
due to the French Academy. 

Signs of an early change in the weather are more common 
than those relating to entire seasons. Sailors are pro- 
verbially weather prophets. It is likely that their skill 
is due to the fact that their experience is on the ocean, 
where the surface in all directions is water, and where 
winds are unobstructed over distances of many miles; and 

* Von den bisherigen Versuchen iiber langere Voraussicht der Wit- 
terung. Eine Geschichtliche Skisse, von Anselm Ellinger, Miinchen, 
1815. 



220 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

under these conditions they escape to a great extent the 
capaciousness that attends the weather inland. Along a 
seaboard, the weather predicter will distinguish between the 
influences proceeding from the land side and those from the 
ocean side, and will shape his predictions accordingly. While 
the skipper of the Schooner Hesperus might see danger in 
"a gale from the northeast" he might read the sign 
differently if he were just outside the Golden Gate. 

Until weather reports were made the official business of 
national governments, which is to say within the last half 
century, weather forecasts were made at the whim of an 
individual, or were based upon an experience or observations 
and records of his own, or such as he could gather from 
limited and not always reliable sources. The predictions 
were therefore fragmentary and limited, or else largely 
guesswork. It required the science of meteorology to de- 
termine just which of early weather sayings rest upon a 
scientific foundation, and which are baseless, or are the 
result of some untrustworthy coincidence; and meteorology 
could not make much headway, or at least could not be 
turned to immediate advantage until telegraphic communi- 
cation became wide and general. Even so, the science is 
still far from perfected, and the factors of weather are too 
unsteady to be interpreted for any distance ahead in any 
simple scheme. 

Among the voluminous writings of Aristotle (384 B.C.- 
322 B.C.) is a treatise on Meteorology which is a philosophi- 
cal and physical discussion of the subject, scholarly of course 
and, for the period, unusually good science. It deals, how- 
ever, only with general principles of climatic conditions and 
changes. Theophrastus (370 B.C.-<:. 285 B.C.), Aristotle's 
pupil and immediate successor as leader of the peripatetic 
school of philosophers, also wrote of natural history, in- 
cluding a treatise on the weather. He dealt with his subjects 
not only in an " up to date " fashion, but he was especially 



PROPHECIES 



221 



successful in popularizing them. A few extracts from his 
list of many weather signs that were common in his day will 
show the character of the signs then familiarly recognized, 
and also their similarity to some in common use at the 




Theophrastus : From Bust in Villa Albani. 

present time. His book was a fountain from which many of 
his successors drew freely. It is necessary to keep always 
in mind the distinction between signs that are limited in 
their application to some definite locality and others which 
are of a general nature. Concerning Weather Signs opens 
with the statement : 

" The signs of rain, wind, storm, and fair weather, we have de- 
scribed so far as was attainable, partly from our own observation, 
partly from the information of persons of credit." 



222 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

First of all are signs taken from the sun and moon, 
especially as to their appearance at times when their risings 
and settings coincide, or the opposite. 

I. The Signs of Rain 

"Of the signs of rain, most unmistakable is that which occurs 
at dawn, when the sky has a reddish appearance before sunrise; for 
this usually indicates rain within three days, if not on that very day. 
Other signs point the same way ; thus a red sky at sunset indicates 
rain within three days if not before, though less certainly than 
a red sky at dawn." 

A somewhat similar interpretation is applied to the appear- 
ance of the full moon. Attention is called to the 

14 sign of rain if at sunrise or sunset the sun's rays appear massed 
together " ; 

an appearance which we sometimes designate " The sun 
drawing water." 

" The rising of bubbles in large number on the surface of rivers 
is a sign of abundant rain." 

Rain or wind may be read with considerable precision in 
the size and form of the snuff of the lamp wick. Innumer- 
able indications are seen in the behavior of birds, animals, 
and insects : their actions and their noises. Especially is it 
a sign of rain when frogs become vocal. A sign that has 
twenty-three centuries back of it may well claim the respect 
due to age. 

" It is a sign of rain or storm ... if any pot filled with water 
causes sparks to fly when it is put on the fire. It is also a sign of 
rain when a number of millipedes are seen crawling up a wall." 

Then a number of inferences are drawn from winds, clouds, 
etc., in combination with the appearance of the stars or 
constellations. 



PROPHECIES 223 

II. The Signs of Wind 
44 Black spots on the sun or moon indicate rain, red spots wind." 

The horns of the crescent moon, together or singly, are very 
significant by their shape and position. 

"It is a sign of rain when gulls and ducks plunge under water, 
a sign of wind when they flap their wings. A dog rolling on the 
ground is a sign of violent wind. The moaning of the sea is a sign 
of wind. A mock sun, in whatever quarter it appears, indicates rain 
or wind. If the feet swell there will he a change to a south wind. 
This also sometimes indicate* a hurricane. So too does it, if a man 
has a shooting pain in the right foot. The behavior of the hedge hog 
is also significant ; this animal makes two holes wherever he lives, 
one towards the north, the other toward* the south; now which- 
ever hole he blocks up, it indicates wind from that quarter, and if 
he clnM'.s both, it indicates violent wind." 

Then come indications from looming or distorted appearance 
of objects on account of atmospheric peculiarities. In like 
manner he recounts 

III. " Signs of Storm, and 
IV. The Signs of Fair ITeather" 

" It is a sign which fulfils itself in fair weather when an ox lies 
on his left side, and also when a dog does the same ; if they lie on 
the right side it indicates storm." 

It is impossible to know how far Theophrastus meant his 
weather signs to be accepted. It is a question whether he 
was not doing what others have done since his time, viz., 
merely exhibiting the weather lore current at the time he 
wrote, and enjoying for himself the inseparable mixture of 
truth and error in it. , He was a philosopher, and possibly 
Was not wholly free from superstition, but he could not fail 
to see that superstition had a large part in the weather 
signs. His work is of value to us as being one of the 
very earliest epitomes of weather signs and beliefs in 
systematic form. Weather indications were considered a 
proper feature of treatises on Natural History, and early 



224 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

writers on that subject usually included sayings and proverbs 
similar to those just quoted. 

Virgil (70 B.C.-I9 B.C.) in his Gcorgics enumerates 
many of the signs popular at that time. The weather is so 
essentially commonplace, and so prosaic so naturally the 
resource of a vacant intellect that it might be thought the 
last topic in the world to inspire a poet, and yet the Gcorgics, 
altogether an agricultural effusion, has been called the most 
finished poem in the Latin language, and by Addison the 
most finished of all poems. 

It is in the first book of the Gc orgies that the passages 
concerning the weather occur, and Dryden in his translations 
says " The poetry of this book is more sublime than any part 
of Virgil, if I have any taste." 

In view of such eulogies, it may not be amiss here to 
quote the most salient of these weather passages. The 
following are the simplest and most direct. If they have 
no greater scientific value they make better reading than 
the bald statements of Theophrastus or Pliny. 

** And that by certain signs we may presage 
Of heats and rains, and wind's impetuous rage, 
The Sovereign of the heavens has set on high 
The moon to mark the changes of the sky ; 
When southern blasts should cease, and when the swain 
Should near their folds his feeding flocks restrain. 
For, ere the rising winds begin to roar, 
The working seas advance to wash the shore ; 
Soft whispers run along the leafy woods, 
And mountains whistle to the murmuring floods. 
Even then the doubtful billows scarce abstain 
From the tossed vessel on the troubled main ; 
When crying cormorants forsake the sea, 
And, stretching to the covert, wing their way; 
When sportful coots run skimming o'er the strand; 
When watchful herons leave their watery strand, 
And, mounting upward with erected flight, 
Gain on the skies -and soar above the sight. 



PROPHECIES 225 

And oft, before tempestuous winds arise, 
The seeming stars fall headlong from the skies, 
And, shooting through the darkness, gild the night 
With sweeping glories, and long trails of light; 
And chaff with eddy-winds is whirled around, 
And dancing leaves are lifted from the ground; 
And floating feathers on the waters play. 

Wet weather seldom hurts the most unwise ; 

So plain the signs, such prophets are the skies. 

The wary crane foresees it first, and sails 

Above the storm and leaves the lowly vales; 

The cow looks up, and from afar can find 

The change of heaven, and snuffs it in the wind; 

The swallow skims the river's watery face; 

The frogs renew the croaks of their loquacious race ; 

The careful ant her secret cell forsakes, 

And drags her eggs along the narrow tracks; 

At either horn the rainbow drinks the flood; 

Huge flocks of rising rooks forsake their food, 

And, crying, seek the shelter of the wood. 

Besides, the several sorts of watery fowls, 

That swim the seas or haunt the standing pools, 

The swans that sail along the silver flood, 

And dive with stretching necks to search their food, 

Then lave their backs with sprinkling dews in vain, 

And stem the stream to meet the promised rain. 

The crow with clamorous cries the shower demands, 

And single stalks along the desert sands. 

The nightly virgin, while her wheel she plies, 

Foresees the storm impending in the skies, 

When sparkling lamps their sputtering light advance, 

And in the sockets oily bubbles dance. 

Above the rest, the sun, who never lies, 
Foretells the change of weather in the skies ; 
For, if he rise unwilling to his race, 
Clouds on his brow and spots upon his face, 
Or if through mists he shoots his sullen beams, 
Frugal of light, in loose and straggling streams; 
Suspect a drizzling day, with southern rain," * 

* Dryden's translation of The Georgies of Virgil ; Book I. 



226 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

This is contrary to the usual expectation of a fair day 
to follow a gray sunrise ; and the equally common prediction 
of a fine day to follow a red sunset is contradicted in what 
follows, or at least limited to a " purple " sunset. 

" But, more than all, the setting sun survey, 
When down the steep of heaven he drives the day; 
For oft we find him finishing his race, 
With various colors erring on his face. 
If fiery red his glowing globe descends, 
High winds and furious tempests he portends ; 
But, if his cheeks are swoln with livid blue, 
He bodes wet weather by his watery hue; 
If dusky spots are varied on his brow, 
And, streaked with red, a troubled color show ; 
That sullen mixture shall at once declare 
Winds, rain, and storms, and elemental war. 
But, if with purple rays he brings the light, 
And a pure heaven resigns to quiet night, 
No rising winds, or falling storms, are nigh." f 

A much more parsimonious use of omens may make a 
poem effective. The use of just one " sign " enabled Charles 
Kingsley to give an exquisite touch of premonition and 
pathos to the close of each verse, in his poem of The Three 
Fishermen: 

" Three fishers went sailing out into the west 
Out into the west as the sun went down; 

Each thought of the woman who loved him the best, 
And the children stood watching them out of the town ; 

For men must work, and women must weep ; 

And there's little to earn, and many to keep, 
Though the harbor bar be moaning." 

Virgil is supposed to have taken many of his weather 
signs from the Greek poet Aratus of Soli, whose Phaenomena 
was published about 70 B.C. Much of the above quotation 
is almost a literal transcript from that work; but further 
comparison shows that Aratus, to a great extent, was re- 

flbid. 



PROPHECIES 227 

peating Theophrastus, from whom several examples are 
cited above (pp. 222, 223). 

These superstitions and fancies concerning the weather, 
common among the ancients, persisted through the Middle 
Ages. 

A compendium of rules for judging the weather, first 
published in 1744, was ascribed to "The Shepherd of 
Banbury," and had evidently become proverbial in England 
before their publication. This little book was compiled by 
John Claridge, and has an Introduction supposed to have been 
written by John Campbell, LL.D. The "Rules" purport 
to be based upon forty years' experience, and are a very 
respectable attempt at an analysis of the signs in their 
relation to atmospheric conditions, such as mists, clouds, 
winds, and rain. Most of the rules are for short time 
predictions; but as to seasonal or monthly portents, while 
reminding the reader that a rule good for one locality may 
not be applicable to another, the writer says 

" It may not be amiss to remark that it is highly probable, or 
rather absolutely certain, that the Weather in one Season of the 
Year determines the Weather in another. For Instance, if there 
be a rainy Winter, then the Autumn will be dry, if a dry Spring 
then a rainy Winter." 

This gives a range of six to nine months to the seasonal 
forecast. He continues 

" Our Forefathers had abundance of odd Sayings upon this Subject, 
and some Proverbs for every Month in the Year." * 

As an example of the latter he gives this part of an 
old jingle : 

" Janiveer freeze the Pot by the Fire 
If the Grass grow in Janiveer 
It grows the worse f or't all the Year. 
The Welchman had rather see his Dam on the Bier 
Than to see a fair Februeer. 

* The Shepherd of Banbury 's Rules To Judge of the Changes of 
the Weather. London, 1744* 



228 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

March Wind and May Sun 

Makes Clothes white and Maids Dun. 

When April blows his Horn 

It's good both for Hay and Corn. 

An April Flood 

Carrys away the Frog and her Brood. 

A cold May and a windy 

Makes a full Barn and a Findy. 

A May Flood never did good. 

A swarm of Bees in May 

Is worth a load of Hay 

But a Swarm in July 

Is not worth a Fly, etc." 

In some portions of America the proverb concerning the 
bees includes the couplet 

" A swarm of Bees in June 
Is worth a silver spoon." 

The first of the Shepherd's Rules was "If the Sun 
rise red and fiery wind and Rain " ; and the second, "If 
cloudy, and the clouds soon decrease Certain fair weather/' 
The author moralizes upon the weather changes and ad- 
monishes the reader that it is a good thing the weather 
does change! And assures him that there is nothing what* 
ever about it that is accidental, but that it is entirely directed 
by Providence for the good of mankind in general. 

This interesting volume was followed in 1773 by An Essay 
on the Weather, with Remarks on the Shepherd of Banbury's 
Rules, by John Mills, Esq. This author says "Who the 
Shepherd of Banbusy was, we know not ; nor indeed have we 
any proof that the rules called his were penned by a real 
shepherd." In addition to his remarks on The Shepherd's 
" Rules " he makes critical judgment of the weather on his 
own part, and quotes freely from Virgil as we have done 
above. He further enumerates signs by earthworms, moles, 
fleas, spiders, flies, bees, gnats, birds, etc., and closes the 
chapter (II) 

"in men; frequently aches, wounds, and corns are more trouble- 
some either towards rain or towards frost." 



PROPHECIES 229 

An experience that does not seem to be limited to any one 
place or period. After some further analysis he says 

"Hence we may account for an observation adopted into all 
languages, The evening red, and the morning gray, is a sign of a 
fair day" 

It is related of Dr. Edward Jenner, the discoverer of 
vaccination, that by way of declining an invitation to go upon 
an excursion with a friend, he wrote the following, which 
has been thought the most complete epitome of popular 
signs of rain extant : 

" The hollow winds begin to blow, 
The clouds look black, the glass is low; 
The soot falls down, the spaniels sleep, 
And spiders from their cobwebs peep. 
Last night the sun went pale to bed, 
The moon in halos hid her head; 
The boding shepherd heaves a sigh, 
For, see, a rainbow spans the sky, 
The walls are damp, the ditches smell, 
Closed is the pink-eyed pimpernel. 
Hark, how the chairs and tables crack, 
Old Betty *s joints are on the rack; 
Loud quack the ducks, the peacocks cry, 
The distant hills are looking nigh. 
How restless are the snorting swine, 
The busy flies disturb the kine; 
Low o'er the grass the swallow wings; 
The cricket, too, how sharp he sings ; 
Puss, on the hearth, with velvet paws, 
Sits, wiping o'er her whiskered jaws. 
Through the clear stream the fishes rise, 
And nimbly catch th'incautious flies; 
The glow worms, numerous and bright, 
Illum'd the dewy dell last night. 
At dusk the squalid toad was seen, 
Hopping and crawling o'er the green ; 
The whirling wind the dust obeys* 
And in the rapid eddy plays; 
The frog has changed his yellow vest, 
And in a russet coat is dressed. 



230 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Though June, the air is cold and still; 
The blackbird's mellow voice is shrill. 
My dog, so alter'd is his taste, 
Quits mutton bones, on grass to feast; 
And see yon rooks, how odd their flight, 
They imitate the gliding kite, 
And seem precipitate to fall 
As if they felt the piercing ball. 
'Twill surely rain, I see with sorrow, 
Our jaunt must be put off tomorrow." 

The Weather Bureau is our best barrier against the flood 
of weather superstitions. Among its many valuable publi- 
cations, an excellent compendium is Bulletin No. 33, entitled 
Weather Folk-Lore and Local Weather Signs, by Professor 
Edward B. Garriott, issued in 1903. This recounts at 
considerable length the notions and proverbs that have 
acquired popularity in the folk lore of different nations, 
some wise, some weather-wise, some otherwise, distrib- 
uting them under appropriate heads such as Winds, Clouds, 
Barometer, Temperature, Humidity, Animals, Birds, Fish, 
Insects, Plants, The Sun, The Moon, The Stars; all these 
for short time predictions. Then a dozen pages are given 
to the consideration of long range forecasts from astro- 
nomical positions, and the conduct of animals, birds, etc. 
It includes many of the examples we have already given, 
and explains the scientific basis of many of the popular 
sayings. We select a few familiar ones : 

Enough blue sky in the northwest to make a Scotchman a jacket 
is a sign of approaching clear weather. (Sometimes "A patch 
of blue sky big enough to make a Dutchman a pair of breeches/') 

Everything is lovely and the goose honks high; Wild geese and 
most other birds fly high in pleasant weather and low when the 
barometer pressure is low. 

Smoke falls to the ground preceding rain. 

Human hair (red) curls and kinks at the approach of a storm, 
and restraightens after the storm. 

Lamp wicks crackle, candles burn dim, soot falls down, smoke 
descends, walls and pavements are damp, and disagreeable odors rise 
from ditches and gutters before rain. 



PROPHECIES 231 

Hogs crying and running unquietly up and down with hay or 
litter in their mouths foreshadow a storm to be near at hand. 

If fowls roll in the dust and sand, rain is at hand. 

When the peacock loudly bawls, 

Soon we'll have both rain and squalls. 

When fish bite readily and swim near the surface, rain may 
be expected. 

Ants are very busy, gnats bite, crickets are lively, spiders come 
out of their nests, and flies gather in houses just before rain. 

The leaves of the quaking asp, cottonwood, sugar maple, lime, 
sycamore, plane, and poplar trees show a great deal more of their 
under surface before rain, when trembling in the wind. 

The Sun drawing water indicates rain. 

A solar halo indicates bad weather. 

A lunar halo indicates rain, and the larger the halo the sooner the 
rain may be expected. (With a corona, the contary is true as to 
the size of the ring.) 

And the signs are not always dismal, as witness the chipper 
Rain before seven, clear before eleven. 

Among long range predictions, there are several of the 
common ones in which the coming of a severe winter is to be 
inferred from the gathering of extra supplies of food by 
animals, or from precautions in building and protecting their 
houses. Also the weather on a particular day or month 
tells what to expect at a future day or season. 

As the days lengthen 

So the cold strengthens ; 

As the days begin to shorten, 

The heat begins to scorch them. 

On Candlemas Day (Feb. 2) the bear, badger or wood-chuck 
(ground hog) comes out to see his shadow at noon; if he does not 
see it he remains out; but if he does see it he goes back to his 
hole for six weeks, and cold weather continues for six weeks longer. 

If March comes in like a lamb it will go out like a lion. 

Rain on St. Swithin's Day (July 15) means rain every day for 
forty days thereafter. 

Always expect a thaw in January. 

Besides the explanations given by Professor Garriott, a 
few of these are entitled to some further comment. 



232 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

A halo is a pale circle around the sun or moon, tinged 
with red on the inner side, and having a radius of either 22 
or 46 ; i.e., the distance from the ring to the luminary is 
about one quarter or one half as great as the distance from the 
zenith to the horizon. The halo is caused by the refraction 
of light through minute ice crystals in the air, and is supposed 
to portend rain. 

A corona is also a colored ring about the sun or moon, 
red on the outside, and varying in position from close to 
the luminary to a distance of fifteen or twenty degrees. 
This also indicates coming rain or snow, and the smaller 
the ring the sooner the bad weather may be expected to 
arrive. When it is the moon that is thus encircled, and the 
corona appears at night, this feature of the portent is some- 
times expressed by saying that the number of days to elapse 
before the rain is told by the number of stars to be seen 
within the ring. Now the corona will not be formed until 
there are minute globules of water in the air, or the ex- 
ceedingly fine water-particles in vapor have begun to coalesce. 
The conditions have set in for rain, and the larger the 
droplets grow the smaller the corona becomes, and the 
nearer the precipitation of moisture. Of course the more 
opaque the atmosphere or the smaller the ring the fewer 
stars can be seen within the circle but, other than this, there 
is no ground for fixing the number of days before the rain 
by the number of stars discernible within the ring. This 
resembles the case of many a prophecy : there is not much 
likelihood of error in it, for the stars are never more than 
three or four in number (usually fewer), and the change of 
weather is never more than three or four days off (usually 
fewer). 

If smoke rises in a vertical column to a considerable height 
before it disappears by general diffusion, that means that 
the atmosphere is heavy, with no threatening change on 
account of wind just what a steady high barometer column 



PROPHECIES 233 

would mean, and the smoke column is a barometer. It 
indicates fair weather. If the smoke sinks to the earth the 
atmospheric pressure is low, and again the smoke is a 
barometer; bad weather is probably impending. 

The curling of the hair and the precipitation of water on 
metal or stone surfaces are due to an increase of moisture 
in the air, and each is an example of a special type of 
hygrometer. These signs, in fact, only show the stage 
that has been reached in a change that is already in progress. 

The Universal Weather Proverb 

Of all weather sayings, one that has been common to 
all peoples and at all times is that with respect to the color 
of the sky in the evening and the morning. Occurring 
in many languages it is variously phrased to suit various 
fancies, protean in form yet essentially the same in idea. 
A few examples of it will show, however, that it is not 
specific enough to fit all places alike. We have already 
seen the form in which it is given by Theophrastus, by 
Virgil (whose statement is like that of Aratus), and by the 
Shepherd of Banbury, and we may add a few more, all 
variants of the same theme : 

When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather : for the 
heaven is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: 
for the heaven is red and lowering. Matthew, XVI, 2, 3 (Revised 
Version). 

Evening red and morning gray 

Will set the traveler on his way, 

But evening gray and morning red 

Will bring down rain upon his head. 

Red sky at night, sailors' delight, 

Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. 

An evening gray and a morning red 
Will send the shepherd wet to bed. 

Evening red and morning gray, 
Two sure signs of one fine day. 
17 



234 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Red skies in the evening precede fine tomorrows. 

"... a red morn, that ever yet betoken'd 
Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, 
Sorrow to shepherds, woe unto the birds, 
Gusts and foul flaws to herdsmen and to herds. 

(Shakspeare, Venus and Adonis.) 

Universal as this prophecy is, to make a fetish of it is to 
invite the iconoclast. A German yachtsman concerned with 
weather prognostics sees in successful weather prophesying 
something more than a mere conformity to rules; there is 
generally an indefinite feeling of what the weather is going 
to be or do: a "weather instinct," which some persons 
possess and others do not, and he has discovered the weak- 
ness as well as the strength of this generally accepted weather 
formula. He finds that for a landsman official weather 
forecasts are not to be depended upon. He gives 
two well-defined formulas as best expressing what 
he could gather from persons possessing " weather instinct." 

" (i) Change in the weather is always preceded (for general 
and wide-reaching change six to twelve hours, for local changes 
two to six hours) by changes in the tone or harmony of the at- 
mosphere (Luftstimmung) at the horizon or even in higher strata. 
So long as those signs do not appear a continuance of the prevailing 
weather is assured. 

" (2) Bad weather, especially a tendency to falling weather is 
always preceded and usually followed by clouds in double layers (and 
apparently in every bad weather doubled strata are present). Single 
layers, on the other hand, and a clear sky indicate dry weather." * 

Of the saying " Morning red brings wind and mud " 
(Morgen rot bringt Wind und Kot), he thinks this cannot 
mean the same red as that of the evening twilight, but 
red iUwnwnated clouds shortly before sunrise; this does not 
necessarily bring rain. When, however, the morning red 
belongs to a cloud bank of several layers, rain will surely 
follow. Unless due regard is paid to the arrangement of 

* Wetter-Instinkt, F. Mylius, Magdeburg, 1906. 



PROPHECIES 235 

clouds, whether in a single layer or in double layers, neither 
the evening red nor the morning red is definitely significant. 
The red twilight may appear with either formation of 
clouds with the single layer, or with no especial cloud layer, 
fair weather will follow; but if, as may occur, there is 
present a double-layer cloud bank, then, in spite of the 
most splendid evening red, bad weather will ensue. 

That a gray morning sky will bring fine weather he thinks 
also needs qualifying. It can be depended upon only when 
a cloudless morning sky looks a bright gray instead of blue in 
consequence of a light mist. This is followed by a fine 
day, for the rising sun dispels the slight mist, and there is 
no threatening cloudbank present. " Not always," he says, 
" is evening red a messenger of fine weather, nor does every 
morning red bring wind and mud." (" Nicht immer ist 
Abendrot ' Schoenwetterbot/ noch bringt jedes Morgenrot 
' Wind und Kotf ") 

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AND LONG RANGE FORECASTS 
Official weather service has been undertaken by practi- 
cally all the principal national governments and by many of 
the lesser ones, and the United States Weather Bureau has 
been indefatigable in its efforts to determine real scientific 
data, as also to sift the true from the false in earlier ideas 
and practices, and to combat superstition, error, and sham 
in connection with weather forecasts. The warning storm 
signals displayed under its direction are most valuable to 
shipping, and in spite of the criticism to which it is at 
times subjected, a discontinuance of its work would be a 
national disaster. Gilbert H. Grosvenor, Editor of the 
National Geographic Magazine, estimated in 1905 that the 
saving to the people of the United States was about $30,000,- 
ooo every year because of their weather service.* 

* " Our Heralds of Storm and Flood," The Century Magazine for 
May, 1905. 



236 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Systems for forecasting the weather, more or less well 
founded or ill founded, are launched from time to time, 
and usually acquire a vogue, at least for a while. Such was 
the table of Sir John Herschel, connecting the state of the 
weather with the time of day when the moon entered upon 
either phase new moon, first quarter, full moon, or last 
quarter. (See p. 46.) 

A more recent, elaborate system was promulgated by a 
Russian engineer, M. Demtchinski, in 1900. This was based 
upon the supposed influence of the moon, and made it 
possible to predict the weather " for any period in advance.*' 
Like all other systems of prophesying, it is verified often 
enough to make it a bone of never-ending contention between 
its advocates and its opponents. 

Besides the Bulletin No. 33 of the U. S. Weather Bureau, 
of which we have spoken at length, Bulletin No. 35, entitled 
Long Range Weather Forecasts, by Prof. E. B. Garriott, 
1904, and No. 42, Weather Forecasts, by George S. Bliss, 
1917, together with the paper on The Physical Basis of Long 
Range Weather Forecasts, by Professor Cleveland Abbe, 
take account of the investigations and publications of the 
best workers in the Bureau and their 'best authorities, and 
state in concise, interesting, and valuable form what the 
Bureau has been able to learn and to do along this line. 
Professor Abbe very forcibly points out the importance of 
correlating the telegraphic reports from all over the country, 
work which the Bureau has systematized to perfection, since 
we cannot expect to foresee weather unless we can foresee 
the factors of weather. Bulletin 35, on long range weather 
forecasts, is a scathing arraignment of attempts at forecasting 
for a year at a time, notably such attempts as we have spoken 
of in connection with Hicks' Almanac. The authors of the 
two principal portions of this bulletin are Professors Garri- 
ott and Woodward, the latter of whom shows the ab- 
surdity of predicting by the planets, especially Vulcan. The 



PROPHECIES 237 

whole paper is most searching and valuable, but we may 
give only the conclusions : 

" i. That systems of long range weather forecasting that depend 
upon planetary meteorology; moon phases, cycles, positions, or move- 
ments ; stellar influences, or star divinations ; indications afforded by 
observations of animals, birds, and plants; and estimates based upon 
days, months, seasons, and years have no legitimate bases. 

"2. That meteorologists . . . have found that while the moon, 
and perhaps the planets, exert some influence upon atmospheric tides, 
the influence is too slight and obscure to justify a consideration of 
lunar and planetary effects in the actual work of weather fore- 
casting. 

" 3. That the stars have no appreciable effect upon the weather. 

"4. That animals, birds, and plants show by their condition the 
character of past weather, and by their actions the influence of 
present weather and the character of weather changes that may occur 
within a few hours. 

" 5. That the weather of days, months, seasons, and years affords 
no indications of future weather further than showing present ab- 
normal conditions that the future may adjust. 

" 6. That six and seven day weather periods are too ill defined and 
irregular to be applicable to the actual work of forecasting." 

" 7, 8, and 9 emphasize the importance of extending observations 
over larger areas; a study of solar influence on abnormal distribu- 
tion of atmospheric pressure; the sympathy and not antagonism of 
meteorologists towards honest efforts to solve the problem of long 
range forcasting; that they appreciate its importance and "are 
inclined to believe that the twentieth century will mark the begin- 
ning of another period in meteorological science." 

In the more recent Bulletin, No. 42, (1917), the author 
Mr. George S. Bliss repeats some of these conclusions 
and adds others. Particularly for local forecasting he says : 

" Weather proverbs will not be found to be generally applicable, 
and only those which, when analyzed, are found to be based upon 
scientific fact and principles will be worth considering. 

" Observations pertaining to the condition of the atmosphere, the 
appearance of the sky, the character and movements of the clouds, 
and the direction and force of the winds are, generally speaking, all 
that are worth testing out, for one's particular locality. 

" Proverbs regarding the actions of birds and animals are usually 



238 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of little value. Marked changes in the atmospheric conditions are 
responsible for their peculiar antics, and these same changes are 
generally preceded by reliable indications if one learns to observe 
and interpret them. 

"Sayings which pertain to the moon and planets are wholly 
foreign to the subject, and those which apply to forecasts for 
coming seasons are entirely without foundation. Peculiar growths 
and developments in vegetation are the results of weather con- 
ditions that have passed and have no connection with those to come. 
The character of the muskrat's house or the beaver's dam is the 
direct result of the stage of the water at the time the structures were 
made." 

Recent authorities suggest a connection between the planets 
and the occurrence of sun-spots, and these affect solar 
radiation and the condition of the atmosphere, and indirectly 
the weather. (See Climatic Changes, Their Nature and 
Causes, by Ellsworth Huntingdon and S. S. Visher.) 

Probably the officials themselves would not claim that 
the last word has been said on this subject. Weather 
conditions in some countries are less complex than in the 
United States, and where the seasons of the year are virtually 
reduced to two, and the character of the weather for each 
season is formed principally by long continuing winds, it 
may be to some extent foreknown. This is the case with 
the climate of India and there seems to be some hope of 
achieving long range forecasts in that country.* 

It is easy to understand that so long as the impression 
prevailed that year in and year out the amount of heat 
received from the sun by the earth was about the same and 
that the supply of heat from the sun was practically steady, 
an excess or defect in one season was likely to be com- 
pensated in another; but since physicists have shown the 
variability of the so-called "solar constant/' it becomes 
necessary to learn whether terrestrial weather undergoes 
changes corresponding to those of solar radiation. And 
now comes a startling addition to the lore of this subject. 
* See Scribner's Magazine, March, 1897, p. 394. 



PROPHECIES 239 

Peculiarly pertinent, just here, is a recent paper from the 
Smithsonian Institution, by H. Helm Clayton, with an 
introductory note by C. G. Abbot. This paper is a re- 
markable contribution, especially in view of the statements 
on p. 55, and by Profs. Garriott and Woodward, p. 237, 
and Prof. McAdie, p. 240 following. We may quote only 
the first portion of Dr. Abbot's " Introductory Note," which 
will indicate the significance of Mr. Clayton's work. 

" Nearly forty years ago the late Secretary Langley, at that time 
Director of the Allegheny Observatory, made the following re- 
markable statement in his report of the Mt. Whitney Expedition. 

" * If the observation of the amount of heat the sun sends the 
earth is among the most important and difficult in astronomical 
physics it may also be termed the fundamental problem of meteorology, 
nearly all whose phenomena would become predictable if we knew 
both the original quantity and kind of this heat; how it affects the 
constituents of the atmosphere on its passage earthward; how much 
of it reaches the soil; how through the aid of the atmosphere it 
maintains the surface temperature of this planet, and how in dim- 
inished quantity and altered kind it is finally returned to outer 
space/ 

" Let us set over against this pronouncement of Langley the 
final conclusion of Mr. Clayton in the paper which follows: 

" ' The results of these researches have led me to believe : i. That 
if there were no variation in solar radiation the atmospheric motions 
would establish a stable system with exchanges of air between 
equator and pole and between ocean and land, in which the only 
variations would be daily and annual changes set in operation by the 
relative motions of the earth and sun. 2. The existing abnormal 
changes, which we call weather, have their origins chiefly, if not 
entirely, in the variations of solar radiation.' " 

Dr. Abbot thinks Mr. Clayton's conclusion " is of a very 
revolutionary character and deserves the most careful atten- 
tion of meteorologists." The rational procedure and the 
sane conclusions of the Weather Bureau remove from the 
proverbs of our ancestors much of the fantastic and super- 
stitious, and probably prevent some mistakes, but they also 
take a good deal of the spice out of life, for absurd as many 



240 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

of these old saws were, they were catchy, and contributed 
to popular enjoyment by their sharpness of point and 
quaintness of expression. 

WEATHER CONTROL; RAIN-MAKING AND RAIN-MAKERS 
It is not in human nature to suffer from a prolonged or 
repeated evil without seeking for a remedy. Severe weather 
of any kind heat, cold, rain or drought if long continued 
causes distress and the only way to escape the ill effects 
of such extremes is to control the weather, either to mitigate 
it when it is becoming too severe or to take proper measures 
in advance to secure the kind of weather that is wanted. 
Savages and unenlightened peoples have resorted to all sorts 
of charms and incantations; to medicine-men, rainmakers, 
rain-gods, etc. Their ceremonies are often curious and in- 
genious ; some are grossly superstitious and others are mere 
chicanery, but usually the method of the rainmaker among 
primitive folk is based on homeopathy or imitative magic 
for instance, he will attempt to produce a noise like thunder 
with the idea that this will result in the bursting forth 
of the genuine article and its attendant rain; also, when a 
cat washes her face it is a sign that rain is coming, so, 
to bring about a rain, he will subject puss to a bath in spite 
of her repugnance to it. These practices have been com- 
mon also with pagan nations of the highest civilization. 
Jupiter Pluvius was one of the most potent of the Roman 
Deities, and of course when the gods controlling the elements 
are angry they must be propitiated by suitable ceremonies. 
But the actual control the production, prevention, or 
moderation of any special kind of weather over large dis- 
tricts has not been accomplished though it has been under- 
taken with regard to the production of rain, and the pre- 
vention of frost, and it has been thought that " rain-control 
is a scientific possibility. Successful rain engineers will 
come, in time, from the ranks of those who study and clearly 



PROPHECIES 241 

understand the physical process of cloud formation." * The 
modern rainmaker therefore can be nothing if he is not 
scientific. He must have a scientific ground for his process 
however fallacious it may be. 

If any one can be called the Father of the United States 
Weather Service, it is James Pollard Espy (1785-1860). 




Portrait of James Pollard Espy ("Old Storm King") 
(Courtesy of D. Applet on and Co.) 

From his meteorological studies he evolved a theory of the 
manner in which clouds are formed in high regions of the 
atmosphere and produce rain. This was to the effect, 
essentially, that heated air at any locality rises into rarer 
regions and expands; this expansion is accompanied by fall 
of temperature which condenses the vapor in the immediately 
contiguous air as well as within the ascending column; this 
condensation liberates sufficient heat to stimulate the further 
rise of the central column of air, with continuous expan- 

* Popular Science Monthly for September, 1895, " Natural Rain- 
Makers," by Alexander McAdie. 

18 



242 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

sion, cooling and condensation of vapor into clouds, until 
they are eventually precipitated as rain. 

He thought that this natural process could be accom- 
plished artificially by maintaining large fires over exten- 
sive areas, and sought governmental aid to undertake ex- 
periments for that purpose. He cited the practice of Ameri- 
can Indians in burning the prairies to produce rain, and his 
agitation of the subject attracted so much attention that 
numerous instances were reported which seemed to confirm 
his theories, but his petitions to the legislature of Pennsyl- 
vania and to Congress were humorously refused. He ac- 
quired high repute as a meteorologist in Europe as well 
as at home, and in 1843 he was placed in charge of the 
meteorological work of the U. S. Signal Service. 

Although Espy's theories are now known to be not wholly 
sound, their promulgation was a great incentive to further 
work along their line. The many instances of rain occurring 
either during or immediately after a severe battle or heavy 
cannonading had been often commented upon, and in 1871 
Mr. Edward Powers published a book on " War and the 
Weather " containing a large collection of data to show 
that heavy cannonading was followed even in very dry 
regions by copious rainfall. He developed a theory that 
although concussion did not cause the formation of clouds 
in the surface atmosphere, which was lacking in moisture, 
in some way it did cause precipitation from the higher strata 
of air which carried moisture. His contention all turned 
upon the question" whether, in the United States, in times 
of drouth at the surface of the earth, the upper air has 
a considerable supply of moisture derived not from surface 
evaporation, but brought from the Pacific Ocean ; that " it 
is not the moisture of the surface air east of the mountains 
that causes the rain ; it is the rain that causes the moisture." * 
The idea that at a great height there is a generally prevalent 
* IV ar and the Weather, Revised Ed., p. 156, 1890. 



PROPHECIES 243 

flow of air eastward and above that a stratum flowing west- 
ward is still entertained, and aviators are seeking to deter- 
mine whether it is correct. 

As might have been expected, Mr. Powers' theory too was 
poohpoohed, but his arguments and illustrations were too 
cogent to be ignored, and the prospect of large financial 
benefit that might be obtained from a successful 
application of these ideas in the production of rain was 
alluring enough to induce capitalists to finance an attempt 
on a large scale. The national government went so far 
in its sanction of the enterprise as to authorize an ex- 
pedition for the purpose of conducting experiments under 
the direction of General R. G. Dyrenforth. The Midland 
Ranch, in the northwestern part of Texas, was selected 
for the place to conduct the experiments, which were fre- 
quent and varied, during the period from the ninth to the 
twenty-fifth of August, 1891. Both the place and the 
season were thought to be above rather than below average 
dryness. The affair attracted much attention, and reports 
of the experiments were read eagerly throughout the whole 
country. Various forms of bombs and balloons were used 
to produce explosions and concussions at different altitudes. 
General Dyrenforth's report to Congress (Senate: Ex Doc. 
No. 45, February 25, 1892) was to the effect that the ex- 
periments were not extensive enough or sufficiently long 
continued to make safe deductions; and Mr. George E. 
Curtis, who was meteorologist for the expedition, concluded 
that " these experiments have not afforded any scientific 
standing to the theory that rain-storms can be produced 
by concussions/* At the same time, the leaders and partici- 
pants in this expedition did not think the theory was dis- 
proved, and its advocates regarded the tests as insufficient. 
Much discussion followed. Professor Alexander McFar- 
lane, of the University of Texas, in a letter to the San 
Antonio Daily Express, of December 4, 1891, said " The 



244 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

trial of Friday, August 25, was a crucial test, and resulted 
not only in demonstrating what every person who has any 
sound knowledge of physics knows that it is impossible 
to produce rain by making a great noise, but also that even 
the explosion of a twelve-foot balloon inside a black rain 
cloud does not bring down a shower." This " crucial test," 
however, was followed next day by a precipitation that was 
characterized by different persons as anything from a mere 
sprinkle to a heavy rainfall, two or three miles to the northwest 
of the place where the experiment was made, but in a direc- 
tion in which the wind would have carried the clouds. It 
was not certain that the rain was due to the explosions, 
and it was unfortunate that the experiments resulted in this 
negative fashion and were inconclusive. One consequence 
of these efforts, especially to be noted, is related by Mr. 
Curtis. He calls attention to the rash conclusions that 
were drawn from the telegraphic and incomplete reports 
of the effect even of preliminary experiments and trying 
out of the apparatus, and adds " charlatans and sharpers 
have not been slow to seize the opportunity thus afforded. 
Artificial rain companies have sprung up and are now 
(1892) busily engaged in defrauding the farmers of the 
semi-arid States by contracting to produce rain, and by 
selling rights to use their various methods/' * 

Thirty years have elapsed since the Dyrenforth experi- 
ments what has become of the weather-mongers' pseudo- 
scientific pretensions and practices? As lately as February 
I, 1921, the public press reported from Medicine Hat, 
Alberta, the announcement by the United Agricultural 
Association that " Rainmaker " Hatfield had been engaged 
to increase precipitation during the dry season at the rate 
(sic) of $4,000 an inch. The " Rainmaker " says he can 

* The Engineering Magazine, July, 1892. See also various articles 
concerning this expedition in the American Meteorological Journal 
for 1892-1893. 



PROPHECIES 245 

produce rainfall by chemical and other scientific methods, 
and is to operate over a section of about one hundred miles 
radius. That last is a very clever stipulation. It greatly 
increases his chance of success and makes it much safer 
for him to guarantee it, for a circle of one hundred miles 
radius covers just a hundred times as large an area as 
one of ten miles radius and gives him one hundred times 
as great likelihood of apparent success somewhere, as if 
the region of his efforts were the smaller district. 

A sequel to this appears in later dispatches from Mil- 
waukee, in which Wisconsin farmers are said to offer 
" Rainmaker " Hatfield $3,000 an inch for producing rain. 
The item states further that " Hatfield has made rain for 
the farmers in three counties in Washington State, where 
he was paid $3,000 an inch. His rainmaking equipment 
consists of a huge tank 20 feet high in which Hatfield 
brews a mystic chemical mixture which, he says, opens 
up the clouds." (New York Times, July 27, 1921.) The 
following summer (1922) found the same operator in 
Naples in response to appeals from southern Italy, where 
no rain had fallen for six months and the drought was 
causing distress. The Press reported him as assuring the 
sufferers that there would be copious rainfall within two 
weeks after he got his apparatus in working order. As 
the whole undertaking quietly dropped out of notice we 
can only conclude that there was not much encouragement 
in the results. If the promised "torrents" ever arrived 
they were far behind schedule time. 

There is here the same difficulty in tracing any connection 
between supposed cause and effect the same kind of 
difficulty that is present in the pretensions of the dowser. 
The operator goes through his performance (so does the 
Indian medicine-man) ; somewhere, in some measure, rain 
falls; and the blunder, as old as man, of confounding post 
quod with proptcr quod continues. 



246 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Recently Professor W. D. Bancroft and Mr. L. F. Warren 
have proposed to disperse fogs by discharging electrified 
sand upon them from an aeroplane above them. This treat- 
ment, it is claimed, will also drive the minute particles of 
water vapor together and produce drops large enough to 
fall as rain. Fogs have been thus dispersed but rain has 
not been produced from a cloudless atmosphere, and it seems 
contradictory that a mutual repulsion of droplets should 
result in their coalescence. 

The process of passing from aqueous vapor through 
clouds to rain is not yet well determined and the rainmaker, 
who must perforce be scientific, is obliged to proceed in a 
manner that he can show conforms to "theory." Un- 
fortunately the theories mix good and bad science and not 
one is conclusively established to the exclusion of the others. 
The rainmaker favors a combination of two: (a) that dust 
nuclei should be in the air, about which water vapor can 
gather (smoke, either from surface fires or exploded bombs, 
will meet this need) ; and (b) that jars or concussions 
will so jostle or disturb the air that the water particles 
will attach themselves to these nuclei. The process of coa- 
lescence begun, it will continue of itself although the exact 
reasons for so doing are not altogether understood, or at least 
physicists are not agreed upon them. This, however, is 
not the rainmaker's concern so long as they do act. Mr. 
McAdie flouts the concussion idea. He says "Rainmakers 
of our time bang and thrash the air, hoping to cause rain 
by concussion. They may well be compared to impatient 
children hammering on reservoirs in a vain endeavor to make 
water flow." 

That was written in 1895, and scientists have about the 
same opinion today, but in 1918, nearly a quarter of a 
century later, a popular old English almanac, Raphael's 
Almanac or the prophetic Messenger and Weather Guide, 
gives this caution to its readers : 



PROPHECIES 247 

No reliance should be placed on weather predictions during the 
war, as the terrific bombardments cause violent concussions in the 
atmosphere, producing clouds and rain, particularly in the southeast 
and east of England 

showing how erroneous notions, if popular, persist even 
after they are quite discredited by good authorities. 

Various processes for rain-making have been patented, 
and the business is carried on with a good deal of financial 
success by the dowsers of the clouds. They succeed in 
getting testimonials apparently with little difficulty, in which 
the witnesses testify to things as of their own knowledge, 
which occur simultaneously in places twenty miles or more 
apart, and similar inconsistencies. 

The other side of the shield is not without interest. 
When clouds take on a sinister aspect it behooves man to 
do what he can to fend off the injury which they threaten. 
A hailstorm may work havoc, and in a few minutes may 
wreck all the hopes which the agriculturist has erected upon 
the labors of an entire season. It means disaster. Espe- 
cially has this been the case in the rich wine-growing 
districts of France, Italy and Austria. Hailstorms are not 
uncommon there, but familiarity does not breed contempt. 
The growers learn to recognize pretty readily the signs of 
such storms, which usually cover a small area; and the 
clouds from which the hail falls are massed in a limited 
region or pass over a narrow strip of territory. 

After various haphazard experiences of viticulturists, 
one of them, an Austrian, Albert Stiger, invented a form 
of cannon in 1896 which could be readily and, it was 
thought, effectively used for the purpose of repelling and 
breaking up such storms. This cannon somewhat resem- 
bled the old bell-mouthed blunderbuss in form, with a 
chamber at the breach for a cartridge containing only 
powder, and a funnel-shaped tube like the cone of a mega- 
phone. Housed in little shacks on the hillsides, these were 



248 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



ready for use at short notice, and since they were distributed 
among the many adjoining vineyards, a whole battery of 




Firing at an Approaching Hail Storm. 
(Courtesy of Everybody's Magazine, and the Artist, Jules Guerin.) 



PROPHECIES 249 

them could be brought into action promptly. The grapes 
are maturing and the vineyards are in their most vigor- 
ous growth from July to September, when hailstorms might 
be expected, and the workmen accordingly are alert in 
watching for signs of danger. When the storm was seen 
to be gathering, the cannons were brought out and directed 
against the threatening cloud. Signals were sent from vine- 
yard to vineyard and upon the first appearance of the de- 
structive hailstone the counter bombardment would begin. 
From the mouth of the cannon issued a mass of heated gas, 
smoke and smoke rings, propelled violently against the 
lowering cloud. The smoke rings were like those discharged 
from the smoke stack by the puffs of a locomotive, but 
with far greater energy of propulsion. In a sense this was 
anticipating the war, for it was a veritable gas attack in the 
realm of the aeronaut. No theory of the action is satis- 
factory yet sometimes the bombardment has been followed 
by a dispersal of the clouds, and the threatened storm has 
not materialized. It is hard, at such times, to convince the 
relieved grape grower that the cannons have not shot the 
storm away. It is an old, familiar form of delusion. On 
the whole, the plan has proved a disappointment, and only 
helps to fix the status of weather control more assuredly 
as a " vagary." 

REFERENCES 

The Life and Prophecies of Mother Shipton. (Ornamental title 
in colored ink.) Second title page, Mother Shipton's Wonder- 
ful Prophecies Illustrated Printed for the Booksellers, 
London. No date or author. 1880? 

Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Vol. XIX, 
London, MDCCCLXIII. Mother Shipton. 

Dictionary of National Biography. Mother Shipton. 

The Shepherd of Banbury's Rules to judge of the Changes of 
the Weather. J. Claridge, London, MDCCXLIV. (First 
ed. scarce.) 

An Essay on the Weather, with Remarks on the Shepherd of 
Banbury's Rules for judging its changes. By J. Mills. 
The second edition, London, MDCCLXXIII. 



250 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

American Meteorological Journal; 1892-1893. 

Report to Department of Agriculture of Special Agent for 
making experiments in the production of rainfall. R. G. 
Dyrenforth, 52d Congress, ist Session; Senate Ex. Doc. 
No. 45. Feb. 25, 1892. 

Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics. 

Mittheihmgen der Anthropologischen Gcsellschaft in Wien, 1913. 
Regenzauber, by H. Berkusky. (A detailed circumstantial 
account of rain superstitions and the practice of magic 
etc. by various nations and tribes to break a drought or 
ameliorate excessive conditions. D. W. H.) 

The Philosophy of Storms, by James P. Espy, A.M. Boston, 
1841. 

War and the Weather ; Revised Edition, by Edward Powers, 
Delavan, Wisconsin, 1890. 

Smithsonian Collections; Vol. 71, No. 3, Hodgkins Fund. (Pub'n 
2544) Variation in Solar Radiation and the Weather, by 
H. Helm Clayton. Introductory note by C. G. Abbot. Pub- 
lished by the Smithsonian Institution, 1920. 

Everybody's Magazine, May and June, 1901. 



CHARLATANISM 

Among the many people who " live by their wits " there 
is a class who prey upon others subtly yet publicly. Their 
impelling motives, cupidity and desire for notoriety are 
stimulated by their vanity, and their rudder is hypocrisy. 
Although it is their business to live at the expense of others, 
it is not as parasites or fawning dependents ; rather, they 
make dupes of their patrons, and they do this by pretending 
to possess knowledge or skill of a high order in some pro- 
fessional line. Their victims become their prey through 
sheer credulity and the predatory class are charlatans. They 
have flourished ever since men have recognized a distinction 
between meum and tuum. Their practices follow almost 
any direction (we have already described some in other 
chapters), but they have been most numerous and most 
flagrant in connection with medicine, posing as specialists, 
in which capacity they are familiarly and contemptuously 
termed " quacks." A person who is ill or suffering cannot 
be blamed for seeking relief, and as a layman is not supposed 
to understand the mysteries of a healing science, it is hardly 
fair to condemn him if he is imposed upon by pretenders 
and listens with a willing ear to words of hope and promises 
of relief, even if they are groundless; and the treatment 
by quacks ranges from the use of ridiculous nostrums and 
rare medicines to the repudiation of all medical remedies. 

NOTED CHARLATANS 

These have been too many and too varied to recite the 
careers of any but the exceptional ones. At the head of 
the procession stands Joseph Balsamo, more commonly 
known by his assumed title Count Cagliostro; easily first, 
a master beside whom others of wide repute were mere tyros, 

251 



252 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



little better than apprentices; an adventurer of the rankest 
type, a knave despite the efforts of his admirers to make a 
hero of him. Equally at home in a street brawl or a court 
intrigue, a polished courtier and a finished rogue; now in 
Italy, now in Russia; in Poland next and then in London 
vainly exerting his wiles on hard-headed Britons, and again 
back in Paris; setting the whole order of freemasons in a 



_ ', 

1L 




turmoil, and in turn provoking the anathemas of His 
Holiness the Pope ; pleasing of address, persuasive of speech, 
skilled to the utmost in black art; while seeming to serve 
the purposes of diplomats and courtiers in reality making 
them his dupes, his followers, and obsequious servitors; 
his was a career of charlatanry such as the world had not 
seen before, and which has not been equaled since. Francis 



CHARLATANISM 253 

Bacon was ambitious when he wrote " I have taken all 
knowledge for my province/' and Cagliostro, with a depth 
and breadth of understanding coupled with shrewdness and 
unbounded assurance, might be said! to have taken all 
chicanery for his province, for there was no species of it of 
which he was not a master astrology, alchemy, spiritism, 
mesmerism, miraculous cures, legerdemain all were tools 
at his ready command. 

His picturesque career has been a theme for romance as 
well as historical scrutiny. We can give it only in bare 
outline. His childhood is obscure. He is said to have been 
born at Palermo in 1743 and at the age of thirteen he was 
placed in the care of the Father General, in the monastery of 
the Order of Benfratelli at Cartagirone where he was put 
under the tutelage of an apothecary from whom he learned the 
elements of chemistry and medicine. He soon proved in- 
corrigible and was expelled in disgrace. He entered at once 
upon a career of fraud and adventure; unmasked at one 
place, he fled to another; falling in with others of his ilk, 
he traveled as mountebank; studied and practiced astrology 
and alchemy ; he soon amassed a large amount of money and 
jewels, and traveled in great state with coach and four in 
Italy, Spain, and Portugal. In 1776 he was at London 
where he got himself initiated in a masonic lodge but it was 
not long before he had grown too big for that order, for he 
posed as Grand Master of the Egyptian Rite, which he 
maintained was the original masonic practice from which 
moderns had departed, and as he had mysteriously become 
the authorized exponent of the true principles of the order 
he lorded it over all others. Upon some masons he made 
a profound impression, others repudiated him outright. In 
March 1779 he was at Mitau in the Baltic provinces, thence 
to St. Petersburg in the hope of shining at court there, but 
the Russian capital at its coldest was too hot for him. 
The autocratic Empress Catherine II had no mind to become 



254 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

the dupe of an adventurer and ordered him out of the 
country without ceremony. In May 1780 he was at Warsaw, 
a prominent figure. There, as elsewhere, he went through 
a lot of spiritistic flummery but was detected in a fraudulent 
attempt to convert mercury into silver. In September of 
1780 we find him at Strasburg where he was received with 
great enthusiasm. Here, at that time, resided Cardinal de 
Rohan who was carried away by Balsamo's achievements and 
abilities, and was a firm believer in his alchemical powers. 
From here Balsamo went to Paris in January 1785, where 
also he was under the special patronage of Cardinal de Rohan 
and was all the time in close collusion with him. He had 
married a beautiful, quickwitted Roman girl, whose skill 
and cleverness helped him through many an embarrassing 
and difficult situation. In Paris his meteoric career reached 
its culmination; he presently became involved in the affair 
of " The Diamond Necklace, " which was ultimately to lead 
to his ruin. This affair which, in distorted form, Dumas 
employed to express his hostility to the queen Marie Antoi- 
nette was in essence as follows : 

The court jeweler Bohmer had a magnificent diamond 
necklace left upon his hands after the death of Louis XV 
and the exile of Madame du Barry for whom it was intended. 
Madame de La Motte to some extent gained the favor of 
Cardinal de Rohan who was Grand Almoner to King Louis 
XVI and who was deeply enamored of the Queen Marie 
Antoinette. The queen, on the other hand, had been seriously 
offended by the cardinal and had become his enemy. 
Madame La Motte tricked the cardinal into believing that 
the queen was favorable to him, wanted the necklace, and 
authorized him to get it for her. The cardinal obtained the 
necklace and handed it to La Motte to be given to the 
queen. The diamonds disappeared and the queen was in- 
volved in a great scandal in consequence. Madame La Motte 
was arrested and convicted of theft; she threw the blame 



CHARLATANISM 255 

on Cagliostro, charging him with having perpetrated the fraud 
at a seance. De Rohan was also implicated but both he and 
Cagliostro were acquitted by the court. The impression 
always remained, however, that Cagliostro was not wholly 
guiltless, nor were Rohan's skirts quite clear. 

Cagliostro was formally banished from France in 1788 and 
soon after reappeared at Rome. His masonic pretenses had 
brought him under the ban of the Holy Inquisition, and on 
December 27, 1789, he and his wife were arrested and 
thrown into the prison of the Castle San Angelo. Through- 
out his trial by the Inquisition he maintained an air of 
impudent bravado, but he was convicted, and condemned to 
death as a heretic. Pope Pius VI, on March 21, 1791, 
commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. He was 
removed from San Angelo to the castle of San Leon, Urbino, 
" where/' says Mr. Evans, " in a subterranean dungeon, he 
fretted away his life in silence and darkness until 1795, 
when he died." (The Monist, July, 1903.) 

In connection with his masonic pretensions he boasted of 
his great age. He claimed to have been one of the guests 
at the marriage feast at Cana, and to have witnessed the 
crucifixion. His appearance on the scene seventeen centuries 
later was not a reincarnation, as was held by Nostradamus 
and other famous predecessors to have occurred in their cases, 
but he insisted that his existence had been continuous. 
That he should care to make such claims is rather to be 
wondered at, for the trait in his character that was most 
emphasized by his entire career was that he lived only in the 
present. Whether on the crest or in the trough of the wave, 
he was concerned only with the passing moment; for him, 
the past had no meaning and the future did not exist. 
He would make preposterous statements, such as his pro- 
posal to light the streets of London by means of sea water, 
and was oblivious of the fact or indifferent to it, that 
if he did not substantiate his claims, or as is said colloquially 



256 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

" make good," he would certainly be discredited and probably 
ostracized. He was lacking utterly in a sense of responsi- 
bility, and after his expulsion by the monks, he spent a 
large part of his remaining thirty odd years in undergoing 
imprisonment or in eluding it. 

Charlatanism in its various phases is of all times and 
all peoples ; even in connection with the treatment of physical 
ailments it is infinitely varied, this type being usually 
characterized as quackery. 

An eminent authority upon this subject places at the head 
of famous quacks and charlatans, Paracelsus (1493-1541). 
The real name of this celebrated physician was Theophras- 
tus Bombastus von Hohenheim. He was born near Zurich, 




Switzerland, and died at Salzburg, Austria. He too, like 
many another medieval fraud who was as anxious to mystify 
as to clarify, invoked the Kabbala to support his declarations 
of astrological influences upon health and character. 

" His fame as the greatest of charlatans appears to have been 
due, in large measure, to his influence over the popular imagination 



CHARLATANISM 257 

by the magic power of high-sounding words which were mostly 
beyond the comprehension of his hearers. ... He was the first to 
promulgate the theory of the existence of magnetic properties in the 
human body. . . . Thus probably originated the idea which developed 
into Animal Magnetism, and from it Anton Mesmer is said to have 
derived inspiration some two hundred years later. . . . Paracelsus 
was a very prince among quacks. ... He was emphatically a 
knavish practitioner of medicine, a master of the art of puffery, and 
was phenomenally successful in achieving the art of notoriety. . . . 
His system was founded upon mysticism and fanaticism of the 
grossest ^ind." * 

Nevertheless, a good word is to be said for him, for he was 
sufficiently in harmony with his time to be acceptable to 
his contemporaries, and enough in advance of them to be 
a leader into new fields of knowledge. Dr. Lawrence 
continues 

" Paracelsus was foremost among a group of extraordinary 
characters, who claimed to be the representatives of science at the 
close of the Middle Ages. These men were of a bold, inquisitive 
temper, and with all their faults, they had a noble thirst for 
knowledge. These irregular practitioners, however impetuous and 
ill-balanced, were pioneers in opening up new fields of investigation, 
and in exploring new paths, which facilitated the progress of their 
successors in the search for scientific truths " : sometimes ! 

No matter what misdeeds may be charged against such 
celebrities as are typified by Parcelsus and Cagliostro, their 
unquestionable abilities, objectionable as the possessors may 
have sometimes made them, have secured to them a follow- 
ing, and long after they have passed away apologists and ad- 
mirers continue to plead their cause and extol their virtues. 
The judgment that is passed upon them is likely to take its 
tone from the temper of the judge harsh if he sees only the 
faults or magnifies them, apologetic if he is sympathetic. 
The most common fault of judgment seems to lie in a 
failure to view the characters in the light of their own 
time, and of the social conditions under which they lived. 

* Primitive Psycho-Therapy and Quackery. Appendix. Dr. R. M. 
Lawrence. 
19 



258 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

Views that to us seem absurd were by no means un- 
reasonable then ; practices that with us would be indecent, 
if not criminal, were tolerated in their day with little ob- 
jection ; while charms and incantations against malign in- 
fluences, beliefs and omens that to us are rank superstition, 
natural occurrences that to them were magic these all, in. 
their time, belonged legitimately in an honest pursuit of 
science if the practitioner chose to use them in an honest 
spirit; and the great difficulty has always been to determine 
where sincerity left off and charlatanry began. Both Cagli- 
ostro and Paracelsus have warm advocates and defenders 
today; and the latter, especially, is the subject of a sympa- 
thetic and appreciative biography* that presents him in 
an amiable and admirable character, misjudged because of 
the failure of which we have just spoken, to consider him 
as of his age. 

In a most interesting discussion of quackery (p. 322) in 
the book from which we have just quoted, Dr. Lawrence 
points out the remarkable psychological features of many 
" cures." His account of healing by the imagination ; of 
charms, spells, talismans, etc., includes many curious and 
interesting practices. Especially informing is it to trace 
the progress of an idea from Mesmer with his " magnetic 
fluid " and his denial and repudiation of cure by imagination 
or " suggestion/' through the various aspects of " animal 
magnetism " to hypnotism as recognized and practiced today. 

QUACKS AND QUACKERY 

An amazing compilation of American quackery was 
published by the American Medical Association about ten 
years ago, consisting of articles reprinted from the Journal 
of the Association during less than ten years previously, 
and recounting current instances of the practices advertised 
and their results.f The separate instances were scattered as 

* The Life of Paracelsus. By Anna M. Stoddart, London, 1911. 
^Nostrums and Quackery. 



CHARLATANISM 259 

to time and locality, and when thus separate were not particu- 
larly impressive, but when seen collectively they were not only 
a startling but a shocking exhibit. They were selected from 
a larger number of articles in the Journal, and included many 
names of cures and curers that are household words. Under 
the following headings in the collection there are over fifty in 

Part I. Quackery 
Advertising Specialists, 
Cancer Cures, 
Drug Cures, 
Consumption Cures, 
" Female Weakness " Cures, 
Mail Order Medical Concerns, 
Mechanical Fakes, 
Medical Institutes. 

There are nearly ninety in 

Part II. Nostrums 
Asthma Cures, 
Baby-Killers, 
Cure-Ails, 

Cough Medicines (well-known drops, expectorants, etc.), 
Diabetes, 
Food Tonics, 
Habit-forming Nostrums, 
Hair Dyes, 

Headache Cures (such as anti-kamnia, shac, etc.), 
Kidney Remedies (as Warner's Safe Cure), 
Laxatives, 

Miscellaneous Nostrums, 
Obesity Cures, 
Prescription Fakes, 
Rheumatism Cures, 
Sea Sickness Cures. 



260 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

There are five in 

Part III. Miscellaneous, of which The American College 
of Mechano- Therapy is a striking example of manipulative 
cure without knife or drugs. 

Many of the separate " cures " contain several distinct 
remedies so that the actual number is much greater than 
the list indicates. The audacity, the actual impudence, of 
many of these fakers is thrilling. They do not hesitate 
to guarantee a cure ; they announce " No pay until ctired " ; 
and the " Institutes " boast of the extraordinary medical 
skill and training of their doctors, as fully attested by their 
diplomas from renowned foreign Institutions. Says Dudley 
F. Sicher in an address before the Biological Club of Yale, 
" How the charlatan manages never to lose out would make a 
realistic novel in itself. Suffice it to indicate his crafty 
reliance on creating ' the habit ' ; one bottle with its high 
content of alcohol will inevitably ' tone you up,' or admixed 
opiates may be the ' irresistible pain-killer ' to which you 
will want to turn again. . . . Psycho-therapeutics and 
knowledge of human nature constitute the quack's entire 
outfit; all he really needs is moral atrophy and the instincts 
of a cheap drummer." * Certain it is that quacks are and 
always have been past-masters in the art of advertising, 
and the tricks which they use are so flagrant and so dis- 
creditable that legitimate practitioners, in sheer defence of 
their self respect, were compelled to abstain from adver- 
tising at all, so that~the mere fact of resorting to this mode 
of publicity came to be sufficient proof of quackery in the 
advertiser, and a reliable criterion of his real status. The 
advertisements are sly as well as audacious. One trick in 
them that still persists is to proclaim a simple remedy for 
some common but troublesome ailment gout, rheumatism, 
or the like : " send no money, a postage stamp will bring 
prescription " ; it arrives in due time with advice on sundry 
* Popular Science Monthly, for 1905. 



03 

U 







d. 



I -s 



H e 



bo 
_c 

.1 



262 



FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 



points, including the information that "If your druggist 
has not all these ingredients we will be glad to make up the 

deficiency upon your remittance of dollars " and 

there is always at least one article that is unknown to the 
local druggist! 




Consultation of Physicans. 

In an illuminating article on " Medicine Fakes and Fakers 
of All Ages," Dr. John A. Foote tells us that nostrums, 



CHARLATANISM 263 

cure-alls, and quackery are lost in the dimness of extreme 
antiquity. In picturesque fashion he recounts instances of 
quackery in ancient Babylon and Rome, and says that Hiera- 
Picra (chiefly aloes) was sold as a panacea in Damascus 
a thousand years ago.* 

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries England 
was fairly overrun with quacks. Springing from the meanest 
origins, they came not infrequently into royal patronage, 
and practiced with the most brazen impudence. Their 
preparations were secret but when analyzed usually proved 
sheer frauds. In those days they traveled the country over 
in great state, proclaimed their nostrums from a platform, 
on which they would give public treatment, and worked 
tricks of advertising of every conceivable sort. In their 
desire for notoriety not all are so successful as several 
once famous English quacks whose portraits have been 
secured to posterity by the skill of no less a master than 
Hogarth. His Consultation of Physicians or, as it is also 
known, The Undertakers' Anns, depicts a gathering of quacks 
in consultation, and as the outcome of their practice can 
hardly fail to provide business for the undertakers, it is 
fitly drawn as a coat of arms for that guild. The superior 
and most conspicuous figures of the company are three at 
the top of the shield, good likenesses of Dr. Ward at the 
right (of the person viewing the picture), Mrs. Mapp in the 
middle, and Dr. Taylor at the left. Mrs. Mapp (died 
1737) was known as "the bonesetter," and here carries 
a bone, apparently a femur, as her insignia. She acquired 
large wealth but died in poverty. Dr. Ward (died 1761) 
was a footman, became famous for his " Friars' Balsam," 
and received the royal patronage of King George II for 
whom he was called in to prescribe. Dr. Taylor (died 
1767) called himself " Opthalminator, Pontificial, Imperial 

* National Geographic Magazine, January 1919. 



264 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

and Royal " ; he carries in his hand a cane with an eye in 
the head of it. A little earlier than these was Sir William 
Reed (died 1715), a tailor who was knighted by Queen 
Anne, and was employed by both Queen Anne and King 
George I. He was especially strong in the cure of wens, 
wry-necks and hare-lips. 

The nineteenth century was not lacking in rivals to these 
pretenders. " Beecham's magic cough pills/' found to con- 
sist of digitalis, white oxide of antimony, and licorice, were 
the production of one Bechic (not Beecham). Professor 
Holloway dispensed a celebrated ointment and famous 
digestive pills; the former was made of butter, lard, wax, 
and Venice turpentine and the latter of aloes, jalap, ginger 
and myrrh. He spent immense sums in advertising. Dr. 
Morrison was another who was famous for his pills, which 
consisted of aloes and cream of tartar in equal parts. It 
is said that Professor Holloway, Dr. Morrison, and Row- 
land, a maker of hair oil and tooth powder, were the greatest 
advertisers of their generation. 

As we have just pointed out, the twentieth century fully 
keeps up the pace of the earlier periods. The brass band 
has given place to the printing press but the mountebank 
is not yet extinct. Not only at street corners of populous 
cities do we encounter the hawker or vendor, surrounded by 
a shifting clump of people craning their necks to see and 
hear him as he extols the virtues of his wares. In small 
country towns the mountebank takes his stand upon a raised 
table or platform in the public square, lights a torch, unslings 
a banjo, and soon gathers around him a number of curiosity 
seekers. Intermitting his songs and jokes with palaver about 
his wonderful remedy, if his auditors seem to tire of that 
he catches their interest again probably by sleight-of-hand 
tricks, sword swallowing or the like, and passes out bottle 
after bottle of his wonderful elixir. Such scenes are within 



CHARLATANISM 265 

the recollection of the author and, no doubt, of others who 
are younger. 

REFERENCES 

Compendio della Vita e delle Gesta di Giuseppe Balsamo denom- 
inate II Conte Cagliostro. In Roma MDCCXCI. Nella 
Stamperia della Rev. Camera Apostolica. 

The Monist for July 1903. Cagliostro. A study in Charlatanism. 
By Henry Ridgely Evans, Chicago, 1903. 

Primitive Psycho-Therapy and Quackery. By Robert Means 
Lawrence, M.D., Boston and New York, 1910. 

The Life of Paracelsus. By Anna M. Stoddart, London, 1911. 

Character Sketches of Romance, Fiction and the Drama. Rev. 
E. C. Brewer. American Edition edited by Marion Harland, 
New York, 1896. 



RADIATION 

We have seen that for mechanical effect nothing was so 
potent as " vibration." This was the trump card of the 
Keely Motor; but as occupying a higher plane, and at the 
same time offering a wider field for exploiting occultism, 
" radiation " has been even more attractive. 

THE BLUE GLASS MANIA 

Between 1870 and 1880 large portions of America and 
Europe were inundated by a wave of enthusiasm that be- 
came known as " the blue glass craze. " The necessity of 
sunshine for healthy growth both of animals and vegetables 
had long been known. The fact was also recognized that 
the light of different parts of the spectrum was not only due 
to difference in the physical action producing the light, but 
that different degrees of stimulus resulted from the different 
kinds of light, the red and infra-red being intimately as- 
sociated with heat, the yellow with illumination, and the 
violet and ultra-violet with actinic or chemical effects. 

Biology was now coming into prominence as a special 
field of science, and cell-growth and the making of animal 
tissue, whether bone or muscle, were studied industriously. 
Bacteria and the whole germ theory of disease were de- 
manding the attention of students of medicine. It soon 
became known that not only did light foster some kinds of 
growth, but it hindered or prevented other kinds ; was favor- 
able to some germs and destructive to others ; but more than 
that, these different results could be connected closely with 
differently colored lights, and perhaps it was just the dif- 
ference in color that made the difference in result. 

The idea that blue and violet rays were especially health- 
ful in certain ailments had taken hold upon many, and it 

266 



RADIATION 267 

was not long before theory included the red rays to treat 
other forms of disorder. As early as 1861 General A. J. 
Pleasonton began experimenting on the use of blue rays in 
a grapery, which was covered and encased by sashes of glass 
of which every eighth row of panes was, as he supposed, 
violet in color; at least they appeared so to the eye. The 
vigor, the health, the productiveness of the vines was as- 
tonishing, not only to himself but to all who saw them. For 
eight y^ars this wonderful growth was continued; then, in 
1869, he began to try the effect of the colored light on the 
growth of animals. One litter of pigs he placed in an 
ordinary pen, and another in a beautiful glass house with 
a proportion of violet panes, in the light of which the little 
rooters bathed luxuriously and gleefully. A few months were 
enough to show that those under the violet glass were 
rapidly outstripping their less favored companions. 

In 1871 General Pleasonton read a detailed paper on his 
theory and experiments before the Philadelphia Society for 
Promoting Agriculture, which was published, had a wide 
circulation, and attracted much attention. An edition ap- 
pearing in 1877 was printed on blue paper. In the preface 
to this he says 

"... I fancied that the glass itself was of a violet tint, and 
so attributed the remarkable results within the grapery to violet 
rays. ... I investigated the matter, and found that the glass was 
a dark mazarine blue, owing its color to a preparation of cobalt 
which had been fused with the material composing the glass. . . . 
Whatever effect may be produced by the use of violet colored 
glass is to be attributed to the proportion of the blue ray which 
enters into the composition of the violet ray of light, and not to 
those composite rays themselves." * 

To mistake dark blue glass for violet was not extraor- 
dirjary since this glass did look violet by reflected light. 
^General Pleasonton's ideas were eagerly taken up and 
rapidly disseminated. A wealthy Baltimorean who suf- 
* Blue and Sun-Lights, Their Influence upon Life, Disease, etc. 



268 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

fered from chronic rheumatism was to be seen on sunny 
days, driving in a phaeton of which the cover was a canopy 
of blue glass, while at home his luxurious study was flooded 
with sunlight filtered through glass of this same vivifying 
color. About this same time Dr. Seth Pancoast of Phila- 
delphia published a work, printed on white paper, in blue 
letters, with a red line border, entitled Blue and Red Light; 
or Light and Its Rays as Medicine. The purpose of the 
book, as the author states it, was " not only to prove that 
the gentle Blue ray has curative properties for some dis- 
orders, and the strong, Red ray for others, but to demon- 
strate just why they, and not the Green or the Yellow, must 
be employed, and how they act, and then to explain the 
best methods of employing them." * 

It seems in place just here to notice that the advocates of 
obscure or bizarre doctrines make much of tenets and 
practices that are or claim to be very ancient ; and of those 
early sources none is more influential than the Kabbala. The 
Rosicrucians are darkly mysterious, but incomparably wise 
with the lore of this ancient mystical jumble. The potency 
of light in its separate components Dr. Pancoast finds fully 
expounded in this compendium of ancient mysticism, ac- 
cording to which everything, good or bad, wise or foolish, 
has its source in gods, devils, or the stars. The uninitiated 
can never realize the profundity of its secrets, but he who 
knows the Kabbala has the key to all the enigmas of nature 
that perplex the modern philosopher, so great is the power 
inherent in antiquity. 

To find modern knowledge or discoveries foreshadowed in 
ancient clouds requires an interpreter who is quite ready to 
discern what he is looking for, something like the Baconian 
authorship of Shakespeare. Such vision is of the same 
order as the conviction that the early Egyptians must have 
possessed mechanical powers unknown to us, to transport 

* Kabbala, p. 53, Harvard Edition, Worthington Co. 



RADIATION 269 

and raise the ponderous blocks of stone, and erect the mas- 
sive structures of the pyramids; that they must have had 
greater knowledge of astronomy and physics than we give 
them credit for, to orient their buildings with accuracy ; and 
that our own power today would be larger and our welfare 
greatly enhanced if we but possessed their wisdom. In 
this spirit of interpretation, Dr. Pancoast found in the 
Kabbala a wonderful revelation of the curative powers of 
light. 

X-RAYS, RADIOACTIVITY, RADIO-THERAPY 
The mere facts of sunburn and tanning were enough to 
show that the bare skin and possibly deeper tissues are 
affected by sunshine. When it became known that sunlight 
is not single but consists of rays differing in refrangibility, 
a study of the effect of the rays separately was inevitable. 
Every additional discovery of rays beyond the visible spec- 
trum revealed new powers of the rays as features of physics 
and chemistry, and stimulated inquiry into their physiological 
action. As the science of bacteriology grew, its application 
in medicine produced innumerable serums, cultures, and 
antitoxins, which raised hopes of mastering diseases that 
had baffled physicians hopes that were fulfilled to an amaz- 
ing degree although the new practice opened new path- 
ways to quacks ; and as different orders of radiation became 
known, the vista of wonders to result from their action 
lengthened and deepened. In connection with radiation and 
its phenomena popular notions vagaries as well as sound 
ideas have turned most promptly to medical applications. 
Light-Therapy and Radio-Therapy are now recognized as 
distinct fields of medical practice and research. The dis- 
covery of -X-rays was followed by wild views and fantastic 
theories of science, but the application of this new agent 
has been more especially successful and serviceable in 
surgery. 



270 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

The enthusiasm with which any such new means of healing 
is hailed leads to extravagant predictions which are often 
disappointments, and sometimes are followed by actual 
reversals. The truth is brought out by scientific investiga- 
tion, and whatever is good and true in the discovery sur- 
vives while the mistaken ideas concerning it are abandoned, 
but until the error is so completely proved and its harm- 
fulness is so clearly established that further persistence in 
it is criminal, the charlatan will trade upon it. Thus not 
only electricity but radium is exploited. After there was in- 
disputable evidence of the destructive action of this new 
element upon certain kinds of tissue, and high hopes of 
benefit from it in the treatment of cancer had been raised, 
comes the adverse report that sometimes radium actually 
furthers the progress of the disease. 

In general terms, the experiments up to this time seem to 
indicate that radiation of the shorter orders, i.e., violet 
and ultra-violet rays and the still more rapid radiation of 
X-rays and radium, are destructive to many forms of 
bacteria and irritating to healthy tissue; and that supposed 
beneficent action of lower orders of radiation, the red and 
infra-red of the spectrum, is merely a negative effect. Heal- 
ing may ensue under them because the affected tissue is 
free from the irritation that would be caused by the blue, 
or violet, or ultra-violet portions of white light. The healing 
effect of these latter rays results from their destruction of 
the disease germs, "or an increased flow of healthy serum. 
Evidently, in this view, the advantages of radio treatment 
have to be balanced against its possible dangers. Con- 
siderations like that, however, are not usually deterrent to 
a charlatan. Along the border of legitimate usa^c is ever 
a fringe of questionable practices, with pretensions based 
upon ill-digested experimentation. A Viennese professor 
reports as a result of his use of X-rays in treating women 



RADIATION 271 

between forty and fifty years of age, " In some cases my 
Roentgen treatment caused a complete change of appearance. 
Fresh complexions returned, wrinkles disappeared, and the 
patients recovered .the buoyancy of earlier life." (New 
York Times, Feb. i, 1921.) If that idea, whether correct or 
not, once takes hold of certain classes of society, we may 
expect to find an X-ray outfit among the accessories of the 
beauty parlor. 

What the various rays cannot do has yet to be learned 
and until their limits are assuredly known their supposed 
capabilities will go on soaring. Their germicidal action 
affords a great opportunity for quacks. If one would see 
the absurd uses they make of it, let him visit the baths of 
Bath, England (probably those of any other spa would 
do as well), place himself under the guidance of the vain, 
pompous and officious attendant, and keep a straight face 
if he can while this worthy vaunts the merits of the electric 
baths, and explains the nature of their beneficial action; tells 
you exactly the path the electric current takes; descants 
upon the marvelous effectiveness of the radioactive waters ; 
and goes on with a farrago that probably does impress many 
a patient ; surely, the visitor thinks, the fountain of youth is 
here ; let him listen, but should his gaze wander to the 
enfeebled form of the shuffling, decrepit guide, he will cer- 
tainly be reminded of the shoeless cobbler, the tailor in 
tatters, or the baldheaded barber who has an infallible hair 
restorer. 

REFERENCES 

The Influence of the Blue Ray of the Sunlight, and of the Blue 
Color of the Sky, in developing Animal and Vegetable Life,, 
and in Restoring Health. By Gen. A. J. Pleasonton, Phila- 
delphia, 1877. (This edition printed on blue paper.) 

~urretff periodicals ; The Dictionary of National Biography ;; 

and various Encyclopaedias. 
Nature, July 12, 1894. London. 




"'-'<-. ' /*l" v ^' ;i 'H>"' "*''/'' ; ^^ff lft 




Aerial Combat between an English and a German Aviator. (From 
The Scribleriad, London, 1751.) 



OTHER ANCIENT FOIBLES 

HUMAN FLYING 

The vagaries that have excited popular interest are too 
many for us to enumerate them, much more to present them 
with any completeness, but several others of more than 
ephemeral character ought to be considered here. In some 
cases the end sought has really been attained, though in 
a different form from that which was at first expected, and 
by a great modification of the path originally marked out, 
owing to increased knowledge of principles and improved 
methods of operation. Notably is this the case with aviation. 
All early efforts to accomplish this were directed to the 
achievement of flying as exhibited by birds, with flapping 
wings. Doubtless genuine attempts at mechanical flight by 
means of wings have been made, but descriptions and il- 
lustrations are principally those merely of ideas or plans 
conceived by some inventor plans which, like devices for 
perpetual motion, have failed to reach the stage of a working 
model. Mechanical flight figures in mythology the idea 
is as old as the ages and ingenious writers have given their 
imagination free rein in depicting achievements of this 
nature and the machines by which they wrought their 
astonishing performances. The story of Darius Green and 
His Flying Machine has been a standard piece of humorous 
poetry in American literature for many years, and thrilling 
encounters in the late war give point to the accompanying 
illustration from an old work. 

After futile attempts to fly in this manner came the 
balfe5bn,*jf*i 1783, and floating or drifting in the lighter-than- 
air machine was a substitute for flying but not an accomplish- 
ment of it. The air-bird gave place to the air-ship, and 
aviation became aeronautics. The beginning of the twentieth 
20 273 



274 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

century ushered in a new era in this art. With the effective 
propeller and the light and powerful internal combustion 
engine, the aeroplane became not only a possibility but a 
magnificent success but it does not fly. Its problem is 
one of stability with rigid wings, and it glides or soars that 
is its nearest approach to the flight of birds. It is only 
quasi-flying, but if this is inferior to real flight in some 
respects, its inferiority may be compensated in part at 
least by some advantages of its own. 

To skip rapidly from the winged birds through the era 
of the balloon to the aeroplane gives no idea of the tortuous 
and difficult path by which the last was reached. The 
labyrinth of Daedalus, from which he could escape only 
by means of the wings which he contrived, was not more 
intricate than the lines of invention and scientific discovery 
that have led to the aeroplane of today ; and no chapter of 
science records more of perseverance, of inventive power, 
of hopes and disappointments, or of personal daring, than 
the history of aerostation. The success already attained has 
put an end to the derision that formerly greeted the aspirant 
to dominion over the air, as well as land and water, for 
his locomotion. 

THE UNIVERSAL SOLVENT 

This was another of the elusive objects sought by the 
alchemists. It is not easy to decide just how far they meant 
to be taken seriously in connection with it. The idea might 
have been of service to them in exciting the fear of the 
superstitious, for such an article would certainly have alarm- 
ing powers, but the alchemists themselves were too astute 
not to realize the fact that if they succeeded in producing 
a universal solvent there would be nothing in ^.ie Vorld 
to keep it in. There can be no doubt that many of these 
canny old philosophers belonged in the same class with 
the Roman augurs who could not look one another in the 



OTHER ANCIENT FOIBLES 275 

face without laughing. When the philosopher's stone lost 
its glamor this chimera, too, ceased to be attractive. 

THE ELIXIR VITAE 

Because of its more continuing human interest, the elixir 
of life was more persistent in its allurement than the uni- 
sersal solvent. Itself a product of alchemy, and something 
to be made in the laboratory, its pursuit was restricted to 
the votaries of chemical science; nowadays, from the 
similarity in purpose and also in the idea underlying each, 
the elixir of life and the fountain of youth are 
often spoken of together, as if they were interchangeable 
and had always been thus associated, but historically they 
are independent of each other. It was thought that by 
the use of the philosopher's stone or by processes like those 
by which this was produced, a liquid might be obtained that 
would indefinitely prolong the life of him who quaffed it. 
More, if he were young his youth would be perpetuated ; if 
old, he would be rejuvenated; and when a belief in such a 
product prevailed, the aged alchemist would have been more 
than human if his decrepit figure, his failing mental powers, 
and palsied limbs were not invigorated as he inspected the 
brew that was charged with the hope of a youth renewed. 

As gold was the most noble of metals, presumably the 
elixir would take the form of some preparation of gold; 
and the dream has persisted to the point of modern use 
of a gold compound as a destroyer of the taste for alcohol, 
and a cure for drunkenness. 

Efforts at rejuvenation are merely one phase of the healing 
art, and naturally passed from the alchemists to the bi- 
ologists. On the theory that the secretions from certain 
glands ir; the body contribute especially to the functions of 
organs of vitality and reproduction, the late Dr. Brown 
Sequard, who had won honorable distinction in medical 
practice, acquired a less desirable notoriety by his proposal 



276 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

in 1889 to use such glands of monkeys and of sheep to 
vitalize old men. Every semblance of a success of that kind 
is startling; the biologist has taken up the cause and is 
still working along the lines of Dr. Brown Sequard. An 
important modification of his method was to transplant 
active sex glands from one animal to another and, suc- 
ceeding in this, from animals to human beings whose vitality 
was waning. This was accomplished by Dr. G. F. Lydston 
of Chicago as early as 1914. (See N. Y. Times Book 
Review, Nov. 7, 1920.) In 1917 Dr. Serge Voronoff of 
Paris took up the same line of experimentation, and in 
1919 announced wonderful success with it. His experi- 
ments, however, seem to have been limited to animals, 
except in the case of one human being, and that had been 
too recent to furnish any conclusive evidence from its 
results. As in the problem of aviation, so here, the nature 
of the elixir vitae and the method of attaining it have been 
radically changed with the advancement of science, while 
the purpose of the pursuit remains essentially unaltered. 
Whether the latest conception shall be of permanent value 
or shall prove to be only an exaggerated and distorted 
estimate of a hopeful theory, the future alone can determine, 
but of this we may be sure : this " folly " is one that will 
not die so long as human beings continue to do so, and as 
only their ceasing to do so would disprove the folly, its 
immortality is assured. 

THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH 

The search for the fountain of youth was impelling like 
the quest for El Dorado and, if more romantic than that 
in conception, was hardly less sordid in purpose or execu- 
tion. The one character that illuminates the theme is Juan 
Ponce de Leon, and the spirit of the search is concentrated 
in his expedition to find the island of Bimini. But no mass 
of prosaic details can obscure the radiance that envelops 



OTHER ANCIENT FOIBLES 277 

the idea and makes it fascinating. With any renewal of 
activity on the part of one whose efforts had seemed to 
slacken, or whose energy had apparently diminished, the 
performer is heartily congratulated on having discovered 
this life-renewing fountain. With Ponce de Leon, how- 
ever, it was no phantasy that he sought, but a real pool of 
real water. Where or how the idea originated is not known ; 
it came home to him as a reality in the story told by an 
old West Indian woman in Porto Rico, whither she had 
been brought from a more northern island. De Leon, 
ambitious and indefatigable, had braved dangers and under- 
gone hardships undaunted and now lay, fever stricken, 
eating his heart out with impatience, envy, restlessness, and 
the fear that he might die with his hopes unrealized. He was 
soothed by the faithful old nurse who quieted his delirium 
by pictures of beings bright with perennial youth a bles- 
sing which he, too, might gain. She related the story of 
this fountain in lands still further north, and as her husband 
and others had long ago sailed north and never returned 
she was sure they had found it and remained in its country, 
Bimini. Ponce de Leon's imagination was fired by the 
picture thus presented to him, but none the less he was a 
hard-headed explorer intent upon discovering more lands in 
emulation of Christopher Columbus, and it was primarily 
with that idea that he set sail in 1512 from Porto Rico 
(then Borriqiteen). 

He discovered Florida, which he thought to be an island, 
and within it or as part of it he did expect to find " Bimini " 
and the wonderful fountain. In St. Augustine is a well 
which legend declares to be the actual fountain that he was 
seeking. Among springs of water that is unpalatable if not 
unwholesome, its water is exceptionally sweet and agree- 
able and is eagerly quaffed by the many visitors to this old 
city of the Spanish settlers. De Leon's journeyings, like 
those of De Soto, Cortez, and all the conquistadores of those 



278 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

days, were stained by cruelties practiced upon the natives of 
the strange countries, and only an exaggerated sense of 
romance on account of a glittering goal keeps the deeds of 
these conquerors in the background and magnifies the pathos 
of their failure or tragic death. The sentimental features 
of Ponce de Leon's voyagings are interwoven with the' 
practical by Heine, with his inimitable blending of wit, 
humor, and pathos in his poem, Bimini : a tale of hope and 
cheer which the poet wrote from his invalid's couch after he 
himself had passed beyond hope of recovery. 



APPENDIXES 

I 

The following letter of recommendation, taken from the 
advertising circular of one of the leading astrologers of 
America, will show the importance of choosing the right 
practitioner in astrology as in medicine. In neither can 
the doctor be expected to be infallible, but the chances 
ought to be in favor of the astrologer as he has a more per- 
fect scheme to guide him. It also serves to show the 
difficulty of distinguishing the genuine ajtist from the 
charlatan. The original is not italicized. 

" BOSTON, MASS. 

DEAR 

I have been for the past thirty years or more a believer in As- 
trology, but it has been by you most clearly presented to me. In 
every instance your predictions have been diametrically opposed to 
other Astrologers I have visited, except the late St. Leon. 

The predictions made by you to me during the past five years have 
in almost every instance been verified. 

It gives me great pleasure thus to acknowledge your superiority 
in your profession. 

Yours truly, " 

Swift could hardly have done better ! 

II 

CONCERNING THE RUNIC CHARACTERS ON THE CLOG ALMA- 
NAC DESCRIBED ON PAGES 49-53 

Practically all printed accounts of this ingenious calendar 
since 1686 are drawn from Dr. Plot's Natural History of 
Staffordshire, published in that year. The Transactions, 
Vol. I, of the Leicestershire Architectural and Arches ologiccd 
Society, contains a paper by Rev. J. M. Gresley on " The 
Staffordshire Clog Almanac" in which, after mentioning 

279 



280 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

various characteristics of this type of almanacs, he quotes 
from Dr. Plot regarding the figures inscribed upon them: 
"All follow the Julian form. There are three months 
contained upon every of the four edges. The number of 
days in them are represented by the notches, that which 
begins each month having a patulous stroke turned up from 
it, every seventh notch being also of a larger size, which 
stands for Sunday, or perhaps for A, or any other letters 
as they may come in their turn to be either dominical or 
week day letters. Over against many of the notches which 
stand in the clog for the days of each month, there are 
placed on the left hand several marks or symbols denoting 
the golden number, or cycle of the moon, which number, 
if under 5 is represented by so many points; but if 5, a 
line is drawn from the notch or day to which it belongs, 
with a hook turned back against the course of the line; 
that, if cut off at the distance may be taken for a V, which 
being the fifth vowel, antiquity perhaps has been pleased 
to make use of to represent the number 5, as X for ten, 
which is nothing else but a composition of two Vs turned tail 
to tail. If the golden number be above 5 and under 10, 
it is then marked out to us by the hooked line, which is 5 
with one point which makes 6, or two which makes 7, or 
three for 8, or four for 9 ; the said line being crossed with 
a stroak patulous (broad) at each end, which represents an 
X when the golden number for the day is 10; points being 
added (as above, over the hook for 5), till the number 
rises to 15, when a hook is placed again at the end of the 
line above the X, to show us that number. Above these 
the points are added again till the number amounts to 
19, where the line issuing from the day is cross't with two 
patulous stroaks (as if it were 20), as may be .seen on 
the clogg, January 5." Regarding the symbols at the right 
of the notches, of which we have given some account on 
pages 51-53, Mr. Gresley notes that these markings are 



APPENDIXES 281 

not alike on all the clogs, some of which are sparing of 
emblems ; his specimen has merely lines out from the notches 
in many instances, and some have other variations, the 
Norwegian and Danish differing from the English. 

Brady's Clavis Calendaria and Analysis, Vol. I, pp. 45, 46, 
giVes further quotation from Dr. Plot : " And these numbers 
are not set so wildly and confusedly against the days of the 
month, as at first sight may appear, but in a method and 
order, whether you consider them as they immediately 
precede and follow one another, or the distance interceding 
each figure, or the value, or denomination; for every 
following number is made by adding 8 to the preceding, and 
every preceding one, by adding n to the following one; 
still casting away 19, .the whole cycle, when the addition 
shall exceed it. Thus to 3, which stands against Jan. I, 
add 8, it makes n, which stands against the third day 
of the month ; to which add 8 again, and it makes 19 ; whence 
8 itself comes to be the following figure, and 16 the next; 
on the contrary, if to 1 6 you add n, it makes 27, whence 
deducting 19, there remains 8, the number above it and so on, 
.... Note: 3 stands against the ist of January, because 3 
was the golden number when the fathers of the Nicene 
council settled the time for the observation of Easter." 

(To determine the golden number for any year, add I to 
the date of the year, divide by 19, the quotient is the number 
of cycles elapsed, and the remainder is the Golden Number. 
See Enc. Brit., Art. " Calendar." The Nicene Council met 
in 325 ; adding i to 325 and dividing by 19 gives 17 cycles 
elapsed with 3 as remainder ; therefore for the year 325 the 
G. N. is 3. D. W. H.) Mr. Brady thinks (Clavis Calen- 
daria, pp. 47, 48) that these Runic staves of the Anglo Saxons 
Were but " humble imitations of the Egyptian obelisks, which 
were the first species of almanacs ever used." 

21 



282 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

III 
PRIZES 

Innumerable prizes have been established for scientific 
investigation and discovery. They are offered by Govern- 
ments, Societies, Academies, Universities, and private jp- 
dividuals. They take the form of medals, certificates, 
badges and other tokens, and cash. Of the last kind, the 
largest are those offered by the will of the late Swedish 
engineer, Alfred Nobel, who bequeathed money 'for five 
prizes to be given annually, three of which are distinctly 
scientific in character. 

Sometimes prizes of an opposite purpose are offered, 
of which we mention a few examples. 

In 1901, and frequently thereafter, Mr. Joseph Battell 
of Middlebury, Vt., offered a prize of two thousand dollars 
to the first person who could prove the undulatory theories 
(of sound, light, etc.) to be true, and the offer was made 
permanent by insertion in The New Physics, 1909; and in 
a letter, 1909, to the Scientific American, he says: "In 
addition, we will give the Secretary of the Scientific Ameri- 
can, who writes us, five hundred dollars cash if he can 
prove that our explanation (of the action of sound in a 
telephone) is not true/' 

In the Middlebury Register of April 22, 1910, he says: 
" We are disposed ... to offer another and quite different 
prize of one thousand dollars cash to the first College or 
High School of established character, which shall adopt the 
corpuscular theories of Light and Sound, one of them as 
expounded by Sir Isaac Newton and accepted for one 
hundred years by all scientists, and then most foolishly 
given up ; and the other now fully demonstrated and accepted 
by many if not all of the ablest physicists of the world." 

In a communication to the Aeronautical Society of New 
York City, in April 1914, Mr, Robert Stevenson states 



APPENDIXES 283 

that he had offered " a thousand dollars, through the Editor 
of Science, to the first Scientist who would prove either 
experimentally or mathematically that bodies did actually 
fall with acceleration in themselves, as Galileo and Newton 
believed they did," but does not mention the date of his 
offer. If the Society would acknowledge the accuracy of his 
paper, he could secure a very large price for the proving 
of his theory to be wrong. 

IV 

Copy of letter severely criticizing the author for his 
ridicule of the divining rod : 

LAW OFFICES 
OF 



, MAINE, 

October 20, 1913. 
DEAR SIR: 

I notice an article in today's Bangor Daily News, wherein you 
are quoted as saying that the "divining rod" is all "rot" and that 
you had never seen a successful location of water with a rod &c. 

Now, I do not attempt to tell the cause, but I have seen many 
successful attempts to locate water with the rod. I do not believe 
in the psychology suggested by Pro. Woodworth, for the rod does 
more than bend down, it actually turns in spite of the person 
holding it. I, myself, when a mere boy have had the rod turn in 
my hands, and twist so much that the bark would cleave from the 
wood in that part held in my hands. I could feel the rod pull 
down and the tighter I clasped it the harder it would seem to pull. 
The trouble with you " Scientific " men is that you absolutely re- 
fuse to give any weight to anything that might indicate that there 
is something to man beside mere matter. I suppose you also deny, 
that the table will tip or turn, when several persons lay their hands 
lightly upon it and keep them there for a while, yet, to my own 
personal knowledge, this is true. My brother and I used to prac- 
tice it .when boys. I do not suppose you believe in independent 
clairvoince, but I do, for I have had at least three hipnotic sub- 
jects who told me the time by my watch, after I had close it in 
my hand, and turned the hands around so no person knew how 



284 FOIBLES AND FALLACIES OF SCIENCE 

they pointed. There can be no effect without some cause, why 
not take into consideration the fact that the Almighty might have 
created a force that is still undiscovered? That all the laws of 
nature cannot be known yet to man, and that in the last analysis, 
really nothing is nown? What is electricity? life? mind? soul? Is 
there any future existence beyond the grave? Yes, what is water, 
salt, heat, wind, minerals? When a man gets so wise that any 
statement of a reasonably honest man regarding a phenomenon is 
called " rot," he is butt wone degree remove from a fool ? 

Along the line of spiritualism, clairvoince, telepathy, &c., there 
have been some honest as well as learned men, enough so tfcat any 
man who dogmatically repudiates the phenomena without duly in- 
vestigating, shows his disqualification as a scientist. There is noth- 
ing too wonderful to be true and nothing impossible. With the 
phenomena so often repeated and so widely diffused, it is mere 
foolishness for any man who never saw the phenomenon to declair 
it "rot." When a stick is held tightly in the hands and the bark 
is twisted off, there is some cause for it, and I know by observation 
that water is often located by this means. These things cannot be 
known to be false unless investigated. One true phenomenon is 
worth more than all the world's unbelief. 

Yours very truly, 



INDEX 



AU aris, earliest diviner with a 

rod or wand, 130 
Abbe, Prof. Cleveland, on long 

range forecasts, 236 
Aberrant, attitude of the, 10 
Acceptance of an hypothesis, 103 

123 

Aerial combat in 1751, VI, 272 
Aeroplane, the, does not fly, 274 
Agricola the elder, 134 
Albert King of the Belgians, 

horoscope of, 22, 36 
Alchemical gold, 70 

literature erroneously dated, 59 

university, 66 
Alchemists, character of, 61, 64 
, distinguished, 59 

, pretensions of, 62 
Alchemy, 58 if. 

and black art, 6 
, revival of, 66 

tempting to Royalty, 63 
Almanac, definition of, 39 
, Clog, 49 

, extended use of, 39 
, Hicks', 53 
, J. Gruber's, 44 
, Josh Billings', 43 
, Old Moore's, 48 
, patent medicine, 56 
, perpetual, 50 
, Poor Richard's, 42 
, Raphael's 46 
f The Old Farmer's, 46 
, Zadkiel's, 46 

American Medical Association 
and quackery, 258 

285 



Animals, thought to anticipate se- 
vere weather, 219, 237, 238 

Apparent fall of bodies an illu- 
sion, 1 06 

Appendixes, 279 

Aratus of Soli, weather signs 
from his Phaenomena, 226 

Archimedes' principle applied to 
perpetual motion, 83 

Arctic expeditions, how they 
progress, 181 

Argentaurum, 66 ff. 

Aristotle, on meteorology, 220 

, on palmistry, 146 

> on physiognomy, 161 

Astrologer, singular testimonial 
to, 279 

, the, a royal perquisite, 21 

, , in literature, 25 

Astrological almanacs, 35, 46 

Astrology, 18 ff. 

, different systems of, 30 

disturbed by discovery of new 

planets, 33 
, exposition of, by Lilly, 25 

in relation to astronomy, 22 
, its decadence and recrudes- 
cence, 22 

, original inventor of, 19 

still a live subject, 5 

, the most refined system of 

predicting, 37 
Atomic energy, 94 
Attraction, Newton's use of the 

term, 99 
Author, the, taken to task for 

ridiculing the divining rod, 

136, 283 



286 



INDEX 



Aymar, Jacques, tracks the 
Lyons murderers, 132, 133 

B 

Balsamo, Joseph (Cagliostro), 
252 

Bandelier, A. F. A-, and El 
Dorado, 168, 172 

Barrett, Prof. W. F., 129, 131, 
138 

Bartfett, Captain Robert A., 
commands the John R. Brad- 
ley in 1907 and the Roosevelt 
in 1006 and 1908, 180 

Battell, Joseph, attacks the wave 
theory of sound, 122 

Beethoven and Mozart contrasted, 

159 

Benalcazar, 171 

, his expedition, 172 

Benefic, the greater, 36 

, the lesser, 36 

Benham, W. G., on palmistry, 145 

Bernoulli's principle and perpet- 
ual motion, 82 

Bernstein, Benny, attacks New- 
ton's theory of gravitation, 
in 

Berrio's quest of El Dorado, 175 

Bishop Wilkins on perpetual 
motion, 77 

Bimini, 277 

Blackford, Dr. Katherine M., 
104 

Bliss, Prof. George S., Weather 
Forecasts, 236, 237 

Blue glass mania, 266 

Bodies, apparent fall of, an illu- 
sion, 106 

Bolton, Dr. H. Carrington, on 
Alchemy, 66 

British patents for perpetual mo- 
tion, 76 



Brown-Sequard, Dr., and reju- 
venation, 275 
Bumps, phrenological, 154 



Cabbala (or Kabbala), the, 268 

Cacique of Guatavita, the, 166*, 
169 

Cagliostro,, Count, 252 

Calendar, the, 39 

, , revision of, 48 

Cardiff Giant, The, 206 

, double interpretation of, 
208 

" Centuries " of Nostradamus, 23 

Ceremony of oblation, 169 

Charlatanism, 251 ff. 

, of all times and all peoples, 
256 

Charlatans, noted, 251 

Chichester, Bishop of, proves as- 
trology is invention of "the 
Devill," 18 

Chiromancy, 146 

Clayton, H. Helm, and Abbot, 
C. G v on origin of "weath- 
er," 239 

Cinnamon, expedition to land of, 

174 

Clog almanac, the, 49 ff. 

, markings on the, 50, 279 

Cloud formation not yet well 
understood, 246 

Columbus, estimate of, from dif- 
ferent points of view, 8 

Combe, George, on phrenology, 

154 

Committee to examine Command- 
er Peary's records, 192 

Conservation of energy and per- 
petual motion, 76, 81 

Controversy over attainment of 
the north pole, 189 



INDEX 



287 



testimony in, 191 

[Took, Dr. Frederick A., 180 

, , rescued by Harry Whit- 
' ney, 184 

look's records examined by Co- 
penhagen university, 189 

^ polar expedition, 180 

, return from, 184 

Copernican theory of astronomy, 
98 

Corona^ 232 

Craniologist in murder trial, 155 

Crank, the, 8 

Crucial argument against wave 
theory of sound, 120 

Cults, propaganda of strange, 9 

Cures, psychological, 258 



Dalfinger, Governor of Venezuela, 
ela, 172 

Darwin, Charles, 163 

Degree of " Baccalaureat en Ka- 
bala," 66 

De Vera's expedition, 175 

Devil, the, in alchemy, 6, 64 

, , in astrology, 19 

, , in divining, 126, 139 

Diamond necklace, the, 254 

Discovery of new planets, effect 
of, upon astrology, 33, 34 

Divination, 125 fi 

, belief in, 126 

, schemes of, are pseudo-scien- 
tific, 126 

Divining rod, the, 126 

, , failures and successes 

of, 138 

, ~, foresightedness of, 136 

, , how and why it acts, 

141 

, , in Vermont, 128 



, , investigated by psychic 

societies, 130, 131, 137 

9 t its most fetching per- 
formance, 143 

, , its movement unequiv- 
ocal, 129 

, , literature of, 130, 144 

, , method of using, 127 

f 9 purposes for which it 

has been employed, 126, 127, 
129, 131, 138 

, , scathing letter concern- 
ing it, 283 

, , societies for investigat- 
ing, 130, 135 

, , source of its action, 139 

, , use of, in war, 140 

Dominical letters, 280 

Dowsers, 127 

, strange physiological effect 
upon, 139 

, test of their powers, 137 

Dyrenforth's, General, test of 
production of rain, 243 



Earth, (The, a hollow sphere, 194 

Egg unscrambled, 65 

Electrons and gravitation, 115 

El Dorado, 166 ff. 

, account of, by Bandelier, 

169 

f f by Fresle, 167, 168 

, discredited, 174 

, double meaning of, 168, 173 

, how the name originated, 

169, 170 

, quest of, a stimulus to geo- 
graphic science, 3 

, subject of romance, 178 

Elixir Vitae, the, 275 ff. 

Emmens, Dr. S. H., alchemist in 
spite of himself, 68 



288 



INDEX 



- , -, assails theory of gravita- 
tion, 105 

, , claims to produce gold 
from argentaurum, 66 

Eskimos, testimony of, in polar 
controversy, 191, 193 

Espy, James Pollard, "Old 
Storm King," 241 

, his plan for producing rain, 
242 

Evidence should be weighed, 10 

Extraordinary geodetic theory, 
196 

F 

Fanaticism in science, 7 

Farthest north, 179 

Figure, to erect a, 31 

Fishermen, The Three, weather 
sign in, 226 

Flying, Human, 273 

Follies of Science, the seven, 13 

f not yet abandoned, 18 

Fountain of Youth, the, 276 

, in St. Augustine, 277 

Fowler, O. S., 154 

Franklin's humor, 42 

weather predictions, 43 

Fresle gets the story of El Do- 
rado at first hand, 168 

Futility of protests against 
weather fallacies, 247 



Gall, Dr. F. J., and phrenology, 

154 

Garriott, Prof. Edward B., on 
weather folk-lore, 230 

and Woodward, 236 
Geographic mania, 166 ff. 

vagaries, 14 

Giant, The Cardiff, 206 
Gibbs, Sir Philip, and Dr. Cook, 
190 



Gilded Man, The, romance by 

Clifford Smyth, 178 
Gold figure of cacique and chiefs, 

166 

Golden number, the, 280, 281 
Gonzalo Pizarro's search for El 

Dorado, 173 
Governments employ the divining 

rod, 135 
Gravitation, attempts to explain, 

101 

, law of, a household word, 104 
, Newton's theory of, 97 
9 assailed by Benny 

Bernstein, in 

, by Robert Steven- 
son, 1 06 
t by S. H. Emmens, 

105 

f by S. J. Silberstein, 

"3 

, by " Wilf ord," 108 

t 1 curious criticism of, no 

, , Le Sage's explanation 

of, 101 

f 1 varied nature of at- 
tacks upon, 114 

t , net result of attacks 

upon, 114 

Gresley, Note on clog almanac, 
279, 280 

Guatavia, Lake of, 168 

H 

Hailstorms, attempts to prevent, 

247 

Hall, A. Wilford, assails New- 
tonian theory of gravitation, 
108 

t t the wave theory of 
sound, 118 

, , easily duped, 121 

Halo, 232 



INDEX 



289 



Hamilton, Dr., and craniologist, 
incident of, 155 

Hand-reading, quaint example 
of, 152 

rests upon assumptions, 152 

Hand, the, as related to occupa- 
tion, 151 

Hans Egede, The, brings Dr. 
Cook to Copenhagen, 185 

Hatfield, "rainmaker," 244 

Heine,* 278 

Henson, Matt, accompanies Com- 
mander Peary, 179, 186, 187, 
190 

Herd impulses, 7 

Herschel, planet, discovery of, 
disturbs astrology, 33 

Hoaxes, 201 ff. 

Hoax, The Balloon, 205 

-, The Moon, 202 

, , authorship of, 205 

t 9 newspaper comments 
on, 204 

, Transatlantic flight, 201 

Homo Signorum, 29, 45, 57 

Honnecourt's overbalanced wheel, 
80 

Horoscope, lunar and solar, 31 

of Albert, King of the Bel- 

gians, 36 

of Wallenstein, cast by Kep- 

ler, 22 

Houses of Heaven, 28 

1 astrologer's table of, 31 

9 diagram of, 32 

Human flying, 273 

Humor in pursuit of vagaries, 
lack of, 6 

Huntington and Visher on cli- 
matic changes, 238 

Hydraulic machines for perpetual 
motion, 79 



Inhabitants of the moon, 200 
Interest in the occult, 3 
Isotopes, 70 



January, XI month, 41 
Jenner's, Dr., epitome of signs of 

rain, 229 

Jingle, of the months, 227 
Judas Iscariot, portrait of, 163 
Judges, not unanimous, 123 

K 

Kabbala (or Cabbala), The, 268 
Kaiser, death of the, predicted by 

astrology, 35 
Keely, John W., 92 

Motor, the, 91 ff. 

, and psychology of 
Americans, n 

, astonishing claims of, 

94 

Keely's theory, basic idea of, 95 

, matched by physics of the 

atom today, 94 

Kepler, John, 21, 63 

Kingsley's, Charles, use of weath- 
er sign in The Three Fish- 
ermen, 226 



Lavater, treatise on physiognomy, 

161 
Law of gravitation, difficulty of 

proving, 104 
Le Sage, G. L., 2, 101 
, explanation of gravitation, 

Lucrece Newtonien, 102 
Libraries, reservoirs of erratic 

material, 12 
Light, effect of, upon germs, 266, 

270 



290 



INDEX 



Lilly, William, the astrologer, 25 

Lines and mounts in the hand, 145 

, the principal, 149 

Liquefaction of air and perpet- 
ual motion, 89 

Locust, stridulation of the, 118 

Lydston, Dr. G. F., and reju- 
venation, 276 

Lyons murderers, the, 131 

M 

MacMillan's latest evidence re- 
garding the movements of 
Dr. Cook, 193 

McAdie, Prof., on rain produc- 
tion, 240, 246 

Maeterlinck, explanation of 
" Ouija," 4 

Manoa, city of, 176, 177 

Map of disputed polar routes, 
182 

Marquis of Worcester's overbal- 
anced wheel, 81 

Marvels described by Raleigh, 

177 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew 

foretold by Nostradamus, 25 
Mass of a body variable, 115 

psychology, 7, 208 
Materia prima, in alchemy, 6l 
, use and powers of, 62 

" Mathematicall Magick," 77 
Mechanics of action of the divin- 
ing rod, 141 

" Medicines " of alchemy, 61 
Mercury, fixation of, 60 
, important in alchemy, 59 
Metal, as conceived by alchemists, 

59 
Middle Ages have no monopoly 

of superstition, 4, 144 
Moon, in signs of the zodiac, 35 

signs, 54 



Mother Shipton, 213 
Mountebank, the, 261, 264 
Mounts and the planets, 147 

indicating types of character, 

147 

showing diversity of character, 

149 
Mozart and Beethoven contrasted, 

159 

Mystifying language in exploiting 
frauds, 93 

N 

National Weather Bureau and 
long range forecasts, 235 

Neptune, discovery and signifi- 
cance of, 34 

Newton and the falling apple, 
101 

Newton's Principia, 99 

theory of gravitation, 2, 97 ff. 
Normal and abnormal man, 8 
North Pole, Dr. Cook's reputed 

attainment of, 179 ff. 
, controversy over discovery 

of, 180, 189 

expeditions, 179 

, no corroborative evidence 

of reaching it, 190 
Northwest passage, the, 179 
Nostradamus, " Centuries " of, 23 
, King of Astrologers, 23 



Occultism, interest in, 3 
Openmindedness, 10 
Original sources, 2 
Orsua, quest of El Dorado, 174 

"Ouija," 4 

Overbalanced wheel, 72, 80 
Overturning of scientific theories, 
97 ff. 



INDEX 



291 



Palmistry, 145 ff. 

, as related to astrology, 145, 

146 

Pamphlets, erratic, 12 
"Pancoast, Dr. Seth, on blue and 

red light in medicine, 268 
Paracelsus, famous charlatan, 256 
Paradoxes, volume of, 12 
Patent Office, attitude toward 

perpetual motion, 75 
Peary and Henson at the Pole, 

187 
Peary's attainment of the pole, 

186 

final polar expedition, 186 

" Permutations and Combina- 
tions " applied to palmistry, 
149 

Perpetual motion, 71 ff. 

, all branches of physical 

science invoked to produce, 

85 

and conservation of en- 

ergy, 76, 81 
, Bishop Wilkins on, 77 

, by Bernoulli's principle, 
82 

, by chemical process, 78 

, by overbalanced wheel, 
80 

, by pumps, 72 

, by self-winding clock, 
72 

inventors still active, 76 

, impervious to ad- 
monition, 73 

, t most absorbing of me- 
chanical vagaries, 71, 74 

, no reward for, 73 

of the second kind, 90 



, working model required 

by U. S. Patent Office, 75 
Philomaths, 35 

Philosopher's Stone, The, 62, 65 
Philosophy, (The Substantial, 117 
Phrenology, 152 ff. 
, a stimulus to brain study, 155, 

157 

Physiognomy, 157 ff. 
, applied by Blackford and 

Newcomb, 164 
, Lavater's treatise on, 161 
, self contradictory, 158, 162 
Pizarro's expedition in search of 

El Dorado, 173 

Planetary symbols for metals, 78 
Planets, their influence upon 

mundane affairs, 20, 27, 48 
, their influence upon climate, 

53, 54, 238 
Pleasonton, Gen., experiments 

with blue glass, 267 
Plot, Dr., and the clog almanac, 

50 
Ponce de Leon and the fountain 

of youth, 276 
Poor Richard's almanack, 42 

humor, 43 

Porta, Prof., predicts disaster, 

212 

Powers', Edward, theory of rain- 
fall, 242 

Principia, The, 100 
Prizes, 73, 97, 122, 282 
Professors, peripatetic, lecturing 

on phrenology, 155 
Prophecies, 210 ff. 
, Bacon's estimate of, 213 
, equivocal language of, 211 
, Mother Shipton's, 213 
, scientific basis of, important, 
210 



292 



INDEX 



, uncertainty as to their mean- 
ing until they are fulfilled, 23 
, weather, astrological, 211 
Prophet, role of, easy to acquire, 

210 

Pseudo-science, prevalence of, i 
Pure science at the base of in- 
dustrial success, i 
Pythagorean doctrine of reincar*- 
nation in astrology, 24 

Q 

Quacks and quackery, 258 

, celebrated, 263 

, consultation of, 262 

, methods of, 260 

Quesada's quest of El Dorado, 

174 

R 

Radiation, 266 ff. 

Radioactivity exploited in spas, 
271 

Radio-lead, 70 

Radio-therapy, 269 

Radium in healing, 270 

Rainmakers and rainmaking, 240 

Rainmaking by spraying clouds 
with sand, 246 

Rain, signs of, from Theophras- 
tus, 222 

Raleigh's exploration of the Ori- 
noco, 175 

narrative describes marvelous 
creatures, 177 

Range of astrological prophecy, 
29 

Raphael, on "Ancient Supersti- 
tions," 33 

Raphael's almanac, 35, 47 

Rays of different color, effect of, 
266 

Reappearance of fallacies that 
have been dismissed, 14 



Redheffer fiasco, in New York, 
86 

, in Philadelphia, 85 

fraud, clever detection of, 85, 

87 

Reincarnation, doctrine of, in as- 
trology, 24 

Rejuvenation, efforts at, 275 

Relativity, 2 

Remarkable feature of both 
Cook's and Peary's* final 
spurt to reach the pole, 191 

Reports of committees on Cook's 
and Peary's claims, 192 

Resemblance of antiquated ideas 
to modern views, I 

Resuscitation of apparently de- 
funct notions, 15 

Romance of The Gilded Man, by 
Clifford Smyth, 178 

Rudolph II, devotee of alchemy 
and astrology, 63 

Runic characters on clog almanac, 
50, 280 



Science avoids prophesying, 212 
, pure, at the base of industrial 

success, i 
Scientific attitude, 4 

protests futile, 56, 247 

theories, the overturning of, 

97 

Scientists and spiritualism, 3, 126 

See, T. J. J., nature of gravita- 
tion, 103 

Shepherd of Banbury's Rules for 
predicting weather, 227 

Silberstein, S. J., denies law of 
gravitation, 113 

Signs of storm and fair weather, 
from Theophrastus, 223 

Solar radiation and weather, 238 



INDEX 



293 



Solvent, the universal, 274 

Spaniards crazed by tales of 
"natives," 175 

Spurzheim, 154 

Stephenson, Robert, disproof of 
gravity, 106 

"Storm King," 241 

Substantialism, 108, 117 

Sun and planets, symbols and sig- 
nificance of, in astrology, 36 

Superstition not confined to the 
Middle Ages, 4, 144 

Superstitions, ancient, in astrol- 
ogy, 33 

Susceptibility to the mysterious 
marks an unmatured stage of 
a people, n 

Symmes' theory of concentric 
spheres, 194 

Symzonia, 198 

Systems for forecasting weather, 
236 



Tales by Indians were traps for 

Spaniards, 173 

Testimony in Cook-Peary con- 
troversy, 191 
Theophrastus, treatise on the 

weather, 220 
Thermodynamics and perpetual 

motion, 88 

, second law of, disputed, 89 
Transatlantic flight, 201 
Transmutation of metals, 58 ff. 
, effected by " medicines," 61 
, effected by Nature, 69 
Travelers' yarns,, 177, 198 
Tripler, Charles E., and perpet- 
ual motion, 90 
Tycho Brahe, 63 



U 

University of Copenhagen, Offi- 
cers of, examine Cook's rec- 
ords, 189, 192 
Uranus, discovery of, 33 
, significance of, in astrology, 
36 

V 

Vagaries, new, 16 

Vallemont, Abbe, 131 

, theory of divining rod, 134 

, a precursor of Faraday's 

lines of force, 134 

Verstegan, Richard, derivation 
of name "Almanac," 49 

Violet and ultra-violet rays, 270 

Virgil, weather signs in the 
Georgics, 224 et seq. 

Voronoff, Dr. Serge, and reju- 
venation, 276 

Vulcan period, cycle, etc., 53 

, the planet, 10, 34 

W 

Wallenstein's horoscope as cast 

by Kepler, 22 
War and the Weather, 242 
Waterwitching without use of 

twig, 139 

Waves, hot, cold, 55 
Wave theory of sound assailed 

by A. Wilford Hall, 116 
assailed by Joseph 

Battell, 122 

t crucial argument 
against, 120 

Weather Bureau and popular 
weather signs, 56, 230 

changes directed by Provi- 

dence, 228 

control, 240 



294 



INDEX 



- cycles, 55 

-, difference of, from year to 
year, attempts to account for, 
219 

- Instinct, 234 

- prophecies, astrological, 211 

- proverb, the universal, 233 

-, recent view as to cause of, 

239 
-, severe, anticipated by animals, 

219, 237, -238 

- signs and weather lore, 218 
usually mark a change that 

is already in progress, 233 

in Aratus, 226 

in Shepherd of Banbury, 

227 
in Virgil, 224 

- table, Herschel's, 46 



Whitney Harry, rescues Df. 

Cook, 184 
Wilkins, Bishop, " Mathematical! 

Maglck," 77 
Wind, signs of, from Theophras- 

tus, 223 
Working model required by U.,Si 

Patent Office, 75, 84 

X 

X rays, radioactivity, 269 



ZadkicTs almanac, 35, 47 

, guide to farmer, 48 

Zodiac, 26 

, signs of, 26 

, and constellations, " out of 

step," 27 
" Zodiack Family," 44